Five days after her appointment as Secretary of State, Condoleezza
Rice held her first Town Hall meeting with State Department employees.
Two of the questions posed to her at this January 31 meeting addressed
issues of science and technology. One dealt with openness and scientific
exchange; the second with the stalemate regarding the siting of ITER.
(Of the six countries participating in this project, three countries
support each proposed host site: the EU, China and Russia support a
site in France, while the US, Japan and the Republic of Korea support
a site in Japan.)
The text of the questions and Secretary Rice's responses are provided
QUESTION: "I'd like to know what you think about Science,
as a diplomatic tool."
SECRETARY RICE: "I think science, as a diplomatic tool,
is great. I come from Stanford University [Rice was the Provost of Stanford
University for six years in the 1990s, as well as a professor of political
science]. And just let me say that, first of all, I'm a huge proponent
of exchanges, student exchanges, cultural exchanges, university exchanges.
We talk a lot about public diplomacy. It's extremely important that
we get our message out, but it's also the case that we should not have
a monologue with other people. It has to be a conversation. And you
can't do that without exchanges and openness. And so I'm very, very
devoted to that, and it gets to the question of science.
"At a place like Stanford, the wonderful think is you look around
and you cannot find a more multiethnic, multicultural, multinational
endeavor than in the sciences, and the United States has always been
in the lead of being at the center of international science. And science
and knowledge know no boundaries. They can't know boundaries. What's
discovered in Russia, or what's discovered in the United States or what's
discovered in India or in Israel, it all forms the base of scientific
"The other thing is that the United States can lead in problems
where science and technology can be the solution. We have been very
involved in issues concerning greenhouse gases and climate change, or
instance. This is an important issue. And the United States is spending
$5 billion a year on these questions. Eventually, energy and the economy
and science and technology have to come together to give us better solutions
to these problems.
"So yes, we can press on a number of fronts on science: Openness
in recognizing that there are no boundaries and therefore keeping ourselves
open to other people, making sure that we are at the center of the scientific
discourse when it comes to particular issues that science can help,
and I think just being representatives of the importance of the international
character of science."
QUESTION: "I just wanted to mention to you, both a diplomacy
problem and a nonproliferation problem and an energy problem, which
is all wrapped up together. We've been working on this for the last
18 years while I've been here. And it's called the International Thermonuclear
Experimental Reactor, ITER.... The President himself has taken the decision
for the United States to reenter ITER. For a while it had to leave because
of budget problems. But recently, the United States within the last
year or two has gone back into ITER, but we've run into a great roadblock
because there are two countries that want to have ITER, France and...the
Japanese.... And unfortunately, they're knocking heads against each
other. The United States has been quite open about saying, well, either
country would be okay, though we, at the moment have a preference for
putting it in [Japan]. But unfortunately, because there's six countries
involved and it's gotten quite political and difficult, the whole thing
is in great danger of going nowhere.
"...[T]his would be a major, major accomplishment if we could
do it. But we don't want to lose the opportunity.... And the United
States would only pay 10 percent of the cost of the project, which is
$5 billion, by the way, over ten years. That's very cheap - just 10
percent of that. The other countries are paying much more. But we're
in danger of losing all of that...."
[NOTE: While ITER is estimated to cost somewhere around $5 billion,
depending on the conversion rates used and other factors, DOE has estimated
that the U.S. portion might be approximately $1 billion, spread over
8 to 10 years.]
SECRETARY RICE: "...[Y]ou'll be very pleased to know that
I do know personally about it and, in fact, have done some work on it.
And the ITER project is a very important project and we hope it can
move forward. We have backed the Japanese site at this point. But we
have said to the EU that if they can work something out with the Japanese,
then we will do whatever needs to be done here.
"But the scientists, actually, under the direction of Jack Marburger,
the Science Advisor to the President, selected the Japanese site as
the scientifically best site, and we'll continue to work the problem.
I agree with you. It's an important project and we need to try to break
through what is currently this logjam, three and three [participating
countries supporting each site]. And I want you to know I do know about