Obama's energy secretary

12 December 2008

Nobel laureate physicist Steve Chu will serve as Secretary of Energy in president-elect Barack Obama's administration. His current position is director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


Steven Chu (Berkeley) 
Steve Chu in action (Image: Berkeley)


Chu will take over from current energy secretary Sam Bodman, who has served since December 2004, following Obama's inauguration on 20 January next year.


As the head of a national laboratory, Chu would be expected to bring a strong scientific bent to future energy policy. He worked at Stanford University as a professor of physics and went on to share the 1997 Nobel Prize in that subject. Chu has great enthusiasm for non-food biofuels and energy efficiency, and at Lawrence Berkeley was key to the development of advanced climate models.


During his campaign, Obama called for massive investment in alternative energies, and recently said that $15 billion per year would be used to catalyse clean energy developments. Obama has never offered any detailed policy on nuclear energy, but has regularly included "safe nuclear power" as part of his energy vision.


World Nuclear Association director general John Ritch welcomed Chu's appointment: "The president-elect has wisely chosen a man of science and reason who understands the urgent necessity of a global clean-energy revolution. As such, Chu will find no realistic alternatives to an energy strategy that places heavy emphasis on advanced nuclear power. In recognizing the unique environmental virtues of nuclear energy, Chu will be facing a policy imperative that has already been understood by most major governments in Europe and Asia."


The Department of Energy holds responsibility for America's overall energy security and features offices dedicated to nuclear power and radioactive waste as well as nuclear security, the clean-up of nuclear weapons infrastructure and wide-ranging nuclear research.


The DoE is currently promoting the early deployment of the most modern power reactors by administering loan guarantees for new certain new plant projects, sharing planning costs and reinvigorating advanced reactor programs under various initiatives. It is responsible for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership under which many nations discuss employing closed nuclear fuel cycles with advanced reactors and recycling.