New nukes class on horizon

Prof promises critical look at \U.S. nuclear weapons policy

Colorado Daily Staff Writer

Tuesday, November 23, 1999

The now-mothballed nuclear weapons plant located just a few miles from the halcyon environs of CU has been called an "ongoing criminal enterprise" by a federal grand jury.

The federal government's controversial scheme to send tens of thousands of truckloads of nuclear waste careening down Colorado's gridlock-prone highways was launched earlier this year.

The United States has still not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, while the proliferation of nuclear weapons continues at an alarming pace.

Concerned? Confused? Confounded? CU has added a new class next semester just for you.

The class, which is being offered through CU's Environmental Studies Department, is called "The Nuclear Age: Technology, History and Public Policy Issues." Professor Joel Selbin, who will teach the three-credit undergraduate class, said the course will touch on a variety of subjects that affect all Coloradans.

"We're living in a unique age in all of history, where human beings can literally destroy themselves with the push of a couple of buttons," Selbin said. "The course (will cover) a lot of scary stuff that the people really need to know about what might be called the 'nuclear age.'"

According to Selbin, the course will examine many aspects of the nuclear age, including:

  • Basics of atomic science and technology.

  • The Cold War and the nuclear arms race.

  • The proliferation of nuclear weapons.

  • Environmental issues associated with nuclear energy and nuclear weapons production.

Selbin, who in the 1970s was one of a select team of scientists to advise President Carter on the then-fledgling problem of nuclear waste disposal, said that all components of the nuclear industry -- both government agencies and private companies -- should be constantly scrutinized by the public.

"I saw all of the problems with nuclear waste disposal ... at that time, and they were just horrendous," Selbin said. "I remember how the head of the U.S. Geological Survey basically outlined (to Carter) a long list of scientific and technical problems with (underground disposal) of nuclear waste, while the nuclear industry was saying, 'Oh no, it's just a social and political problem -- all of the science and technology is solved.'

"Well, that was baloney then, and we still haven't solved all of the science and technology-related problems to this day," Selbin added.

While students who sign up for "The Nuclear Age" should have some science background, the majority of the course will focus on the public-policy side of nuclear-related questions, Selbin said.

"I'm asking that students who take the course have at least a year of some science ... but the purpose of the course is not to examine a lot of technical physics," Selbin said. "It will be more focused on political science and public policy."

For more information on the course -- which was added too late to be included in CU's Spring Semester registration handbook -- call the Environmental Studies Department at (303) 492-5420.