The Future of Nuclear Energy and Proliferation Under Donald Trump

Email a Friend
Two nuclear power plants situated on Lake Erie, 1998.
From and

Click on the 'Listen' button above to hear this segment.

President-elect Donald Trump has named former Texas Governor Rick Perry to lead the department that he once pledged to, or meant to at least, shut down in a Republican primary debate in November 2011: The Department of Energy. 

Despite its name, the DOE has more to do with developing nuclear weapons and energy than it does with extracting oil from resource rich states like Perry's.

In a questionnaire sent to the Department of Energy, the Trump transition team indicated that they were interested in preventing the shutdown of nuclear power plants, and also asked for the names of employees and contractors who attended U.N. climate meetings, as well as those who helped develop President Obama's social cost of carbon metrics.

Between 2009 and 2012, Gregory Jaczko was the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which works closely with the Department of Energy on nuclear issues. He explains how America's nuclear energy policy may change under Trump and Perry. 

About 60 percent of the Energy Department's budget goes toward managing the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is focused on things like nonproliferation and counterterrorism in order to keep the country safe in a world that still holds thousands of nuclear weapons.

But Rick Perry won't be the only one responsible for monitoring nuclear arsenals, or keeping Donald Trump's finger off the trigger.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was adopted by the U.N. Security Council 20 years ago this past September. The international agreement bans nuclear explosions on the Earth's surface, in the atmosphere, underwater, and underground. Though 166 nations have ratified the CTBT, 17 have signed on to the agreement but have not ratified it, including the United States.

The U.N. Security Council's Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization enforces the CTBT. It's headed by Lassina Zerbo. He says his agency knows within minutes whether a country like North Korea has detonated a nuclear device.