Andrew Newman is senior director for nuclear fuel cycle activities at NTI. He focuses on nuclear energy/waste and nonproliferation and leads NTI’s Developing Spent Fuel Strategies project. He also serves as one of the executive secretaries for the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification. Prior to NTI, Newman was a research associate with Harvard University's Project on Managing the Atom, and before that, he spent three years with the Nuclear Science and Technology Office at the Australian Embassy in Washington DC. Newman is also an adjunct research associate at Monash University, Victoria Australia where he holds a PhD in political science and lectured in international relations, arms control and US politics from 1997 to 2005. Andrew sat down with NTI's Caitlyn Collett for the latest in Atomic Pulse's "Get to Know NTI" series.
Let’s start from the beginning. When you were 10 years old, what did you want to be?
I wanted to be either a veterinarian or a mechanic – and clearly did not end up doing either of those things, didn't even get close, in fact. I was terrible at science. And my father used to race cars, and I clearly didn't get a whole lot of his mechanical blood either. So those didn't work out. So I moved on to other things.
Did you race cars?
No, no, no. My dad did it when he was young, and he used to rebuild the engines in cars that he raced. Unfortunately, not a lot of that trickled down.
So how did your interests branch from being a veterinarian to getting interested in nuclear issues?
I was interested in modern history, mostly 20th century history, at school, and I started studying a fair bit of Cold War history. It was through that that I became interested in nuclear issues at university. I spent a chunk of time during my senior year doing a research project on George Kennan and his influence on the U.S. Cold War nuclear posture and the making of U.S. foreign policy. That led to my honors thesis, which was on the development of the MX missile that the Reagan administration called the Peacekeeper Missile, which was the follow-on to the Minuteman III. That was an absolute disaster, my honors thesis.
I did it on a Word processor, and I submitted it and it was mailed directly back to me by the examiners, and they said, “What are you doing? This is twice as long as it's supposed to be. You need to cut this down. You need to cut half of this out in the next two weeks or we'll fail you.” So, in two weeks, I basically ripped chapters out, and I didn't do a particularly good job. But I loved writing it. I loved the subject, and I loved the politics of it. So, one could say that’s where my passion really started. From there, my PhD was on the Nunn-Lugar program from the end of '91 to the end of '96 when Senator Nunn retired. I spent some time in state government back in Australia and then spent a chunk of time at the Australian Embassy. I spent three years at Harvard working with Matt Bunn and the Project on Managing the Atom, and that was a nice hybrid of the university world and the think tank world, and coming to NTI was the logical next step. It all worked out very well.
What are you currently working on with NTI?
I spend almost all of my time on our International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification and our nuclear fuel cycle work, particularly on the management of spent fuel and plutonium.
What inspired you to leave Australia and work in the United States?
I knew I was going to end up here at some point, but that was a somewhat difficult conversation with my parents. Certainly since 2001, there was a pretty big suspicion that this is where I was going to spend a chunk of my time, and now it has become home.
I'm sure you go back to visit, but what do you miss most about Australia?