Keynote speaker

Professor Vaclav Smil

Professor Vaclav Smil is regarded as one of the most important thought leaders of our time. One of Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2010, Smil has spent his career exploring new ground in the fields of energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment and public policy. Publishing 35 books and over 400 papers, Smil has revolutionized the way the world thinks about its future energy and food needs. In addition to his published research, he has also worked as a consultant for many US, EU and international institutions.

Smil believes it is his duty to bring hard numbers and hard facts to public debates on energy, environmental changes and feeding the world, using them to moderate exaggerated expectations of rapid innovative solutions. An expert on a vast number of global issues, one of Smil’s major concerns has been the history of technical innovation and the speed of energy transitions. In his fascinating work, Smil points out that the modern energy industry constitutes the world’s most massive, most indispensable, most expensive and most inertial infrastructure.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Vaclav Smil is the range of his expertise. In 2013 alone, he published four new books on a wide array of global issues. Harvesting the Biosphere looks at the extent in which we exploit the world’s resources for food and raw materials. Should We Eat Meat? provides a systematic look at the evolution of human carnivorism and modern meat production. Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing explains how manufacturing made the U.S. a superpower and how that achievement is threatened by that sector’s serious weakening. Finally, Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization focuses on material foundations of modern civilization and on more efficient uses of materials.

Engaging and energetic, Vaclav Smil has taken his messages to hundreds of conferences and workshops around the world. This interdisciplinary scholar leads audiences step-by-step through some of the most important issues facing our rapidly changing world. Wishful thinking, Smil believes, is no substitute for recognizing the extraordinary challenges posed by our future energy and food needs and by the necessity to maintain a habitable biosphere. Tirelessly providing the most cutting-edge information on these challenges, Vaclav Smil remains one of worlds the greatest guides to a better future.

Featured speakers

Rep. Mike Simpson, Chairman, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development

Michael (Mike) K. Simpson is serving his tenth term in the House of Representatives for Idaho’s Second Congressional District.

Mike serves on the House Appropriations Committee. He is the Chairman for the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. He also serves on the Interior and Environment Subcommittee and the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. These committees have jurisdiction over funding for a number of programs critical to Idaho, including the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service, our National Parks, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Smithsonian Institute.

Simpson is one of the House’s leading advocates for a new energy policy and a renewed commitment to research and development of improved nuclear energy technologies. Mike has also gained national attention for his bill to split the massive, overburdened 9th Circuit Court of Appeals as well as his Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act which addresses the concerns of economic growth and stability for rural Idaho and resolves long time wilderness debate over the Boulder-White Clouds and was signed into law in August of 2015.

His political career began in 1980, when he was elected to the Blackfoot City Council. In 1984, he was elected to the Idaho Legislature where he served until 1998, the last six years serving as Speaker. Simpson was born in Burley, Idaho and raised in Blackfoot. He graduated from Utah State University and earned his DMD from Washington University School of Dental Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduation, he joined his father and uncle at the Simpson Family Dental Practice in Blackfoot.

Mike is an avid golfer and enjoys painting. He has been married to his wife Kathy for over 40 years and they live in Idaho Falls. Ashley Finan serves as Project Director for Advanced Energy Systems at Clean Air Task Force. In that role she manages CATF’s advanced nuclear energy project, coordinates studies on energy innovation policy and on advanced energy technologies. She works with the CATF team to develop and implement strategies that facilitate the commercialization of promising energy technologies.

Dr. Ashley Finan, Policy Director, Nuclear Innovation Alliance

Ashley Finan serves as Project Director for Advanced Energy Systems at Clean Air Task Force. In that role she manages CATF’s advanced nuclear energy project, coordinates studies on energy innovation policy and on advanced energy technologies. She works with the CATF team to develop and implement strategies that facilitate the commercialization of promising energy technologies.

Dr. Finan earned her Ph.D. in Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her doctoral work focused on energy innovation investment and policy optimization, both in nuclear and renewable energy technologies. She has played a key role in studies of the use of advanced nuclear energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in several applications, including hydrogen production, coal to liquids processes, and oil production methods.

Dr. Finan has worked as a strategy and engineering consultant, primarily on nuclear energy applications. She also contributed to an analysis of the techno-economic potential of energy efficiency improvements in the residential and commercial sectors and several related topics. Dr. Finan holds an SB degree in Physics as well as SB and SM degrees in Nuclear Science and Engineering from MIT.

Dr. Robert Schleicher, Chief Nuclear Engineer, General Atomics

Dr. Schleicher is a Chief Nuclear Engineer at General Atomics, where he has been an employee for over 40 years. During this time, he has been a contributor and innovator in the fields of nuclear fission, magnetic and inertial fusion and high energy lasers. At present, he is the co-inventor and technical leader for the EM2 nuclear reactor, an advanced helium-cooled, convert and burn reactor.

Dr. Schleicher believes that fission is an essential energy component in the world for the next two centuries. He is working to cross-fertilize technologies and materials from other fields to improve the safety and economics of nuclear fission. His previous experience includes 10 years developing innovative solid-state lasers. He is the co-inventor of the HELLADS high power military laser. Prior to that time, he worked in General Atomics’ Fusion Division and was appointed to the ITER Joint Central Team where he was responsible for tokomak electrical systems. Dr. Schleicher also led a team to develop innovative methods of water purification and desalination with reduced energy consumption. He has a Ph.D. from Cornell University in Applied Physics. He is the author or co-author of over 40 articles and papers on advanced energy production technologies.

Dr. Schleicher is committed to innovation and technology advancement in the energy field. He believes that the engineering and science community must advance substantially new and better concepts in order to have significant influence in the direction of the global nuclear economy. He believes that new ideas are key to attracting talented young minds into the nuclear field to make these technologies a reality.

Laura S. Holgate. Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate served as U.S. Representative to the Vienna Office of the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency from July 11, 2016 to January 20, 2017. The United States Mission to International Organizations in Vienna works with seven major organizations of the United Nations system based in Vienna: the International Atomic Energy Agency; the UN Office on Drugs and Crime; the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization; the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs; the Wassenaar Arrangement; the UN Commission on International Trade Law; and the UN Industrial Development Organization. In this role, Ambassador Holgate advanced President Barack Obama’s commitment to design and implement global approaches to reduce global threats and seize global opportunities in the areas of nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear security, verification of the Iran Deal, nuclear testing, counterterrorism, anti-corruption, drug policy, export control, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group. She also promoted gender balance in the staff and programming of the Vienna-based international organizations.

Ambassador Holgate was previously the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism and Threat Reduction on the National Security Council. In this role, she oversaw and coordinated the development of national policies and programs to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; detect, identify, secure and eliminate nuclear materials; prevent malicious use of biotechnology; and secure the civilian nuclear fuel cycle. She was also the U.S. Sherpa to the Nuclear Security Summits and co-led the effort to advance the President’s Global Health Security Agenda.

From 2001 to 2009, Ambassador Holgate was the Vice President for Russia/New Independent States Programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Prior to that, Ambassador Holgate directed the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fissile Materials Disposition from 1998 to 2001, and was Special Coordinator for Cooperative Threat Reduction at the Department for Defense from 1995 through 1998, where she provided policy oversight of the “Nunn-Lugar” Cooperative Threat Reduction program.

Ambassador Holgate received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in politics from Princeton University and a Master of Science Degree in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and spent two years on the research staff at Harvard University’s Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government. She is a past President of Women in International Security and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She and her husband live in Arlington, Virginia.

Rick Provencher, Manager, Idaho Operations Office, Department of Energy

Richard Provencher is the manager of Idaho Operations Office which oversees the nation’s leading commercial nuclear energy research, development and demonstration laboratory and a multi-program laboratory focused on clean energy options and securing world class critical infrastructure. He is also responsible for environmental cleanup and waste management mission at the Idaho site. Provencher oversees 215 Federal employees and 6,000 contractor staff who work at the Idaho National Laboratory. Provencher is also responsible for an annual federal and contractor budget that exceeds $1 billion.

Prior to coming to Idaho, he was Director of the Miamisburg Closure Project in Ohio, where he was responsible for cleanup at the Mound Site to prepare it to be used as a high technology business park. From 1989 to 1998, he worked at the West Valley Demonstration Project in New York as Deputy Director of DOE’s cleanup at the nation’s first commercial spent nuclear fuel reprocessing facility.

Mr. Provencher earned a Master of Science degree in health physics and a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology. He and his wife, Joanne, have three children.

Rob Glen, Western U.S. Market Leader, Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance

Rob is a member of BNEF’s senior management team involved in setting the firm’s strategies with respect to services, analysis and customers. In the Bay area, he oversees its partnerships with organizations ranging from Chevron to Google to the California electric grid operator.. Prior to opening the San Francisco office for BNEF in 2008, Rob ran for five years the financial markets segment for the New York-based 451 Group, a leading industry analyst firm focused on the business of enterprise IT innovation. He entered the market research industry after 15 years on Wall Street, mostly as an investment banker at Prudential Securities focused on the enterprise technology sector. He began his career as a policy journalist and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist based in Washington, DC. His work has appeared in more than 100 newspapers as well as the Economist and National Journal. Rob received a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an MA from the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at The Johns Hopkins University and an MBA from the New York University Stern School of Business, where he was named a Stern Scholar. He and his wife, Susan Glen, live in San Francisco with their three children: Isabel, Charlotte and Max. He is a co-founder the local folk/rock group, the Big Twang Theory, and is a longtime coach in the San Francisco Little League.