2018 Safety, Security and International Affairs

Dave Huizenga

Managed numerous high-profile projects with foreign governments to secure large quantities of weapons-useable nuclear materials and prevent them from falling into the wrong hands

Dave Huizenga’s job deals with life-threatening concerns. The threat of nuclear proliferation. The fear of a dirty bomb exploding on a city street. The worry that a rogue nation might lay its hands on nuclear bomb-making materials.

Huizenga, a principal assistant deputy administrator at the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, confronts these challenges head-on, every day, as he helps formulate national security policy, monitor compliance with nuclear agreements and work with other nations to safeguard nuclear stockpiles and reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism.

“Dave Huizenga has helped ensure the security of weapons-useable nuclear materials around the world,” said Dan Brouillette, DOE’s deputy secretary. “As a result of his work, there are fewer nuclear materials in rogue nations that could be used in nuclear warheads.” 

In the past three years alone, Huizenga has worked with Russian nuclear weapons experts to remove weapons-useable highly enriched uranium from Poland, Georgia and Kazakhstan; led efforts to remove more than 500 kilograms of uranium and plutonium from a Japanese research facility; and coordinated with the International Atomic Energy Agency and Chinese counterparts to remove uranium from a research reactor in Ghana and convert the reactor for use with non-weapons grade fuel.

He has helped oversee the implementation and compliance of the Iran nuclear agreement to ensure the country does not have the capability to produce nuclear weapons; worked closely with Chinese counterparts to open a world-class, nuclear security regional training center near Beijing; assisted in the development of options to counter increasing threats from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; worked to advance the U.S.-India partnership on nuclear security; and consulted with Israeli counterparts on safeguarding nuclear fuel and securing radiological materials.

“I don’t think we can overstate the significance of his work for peace and security for our country and globally,” said Frank Klotz, former administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. “He has deep technical knowledge, extraordinary leadership capabilities and unquestionable integrity.” 

Huizenga, a federal employee for 28 years, described his job as multifaceted.

“Our whole effort is really focused on minimizing the risk of other countries developing either nuclear weapons or dirty bomb capabilities,” he said. “We also are focused every day on making sure the Russians and other people with whom we have arms-control agreements follow these agreements. Part of our mission is to understand what the verification regimens are and make sure people are abiding by them.”

Huizenga is a team player who has developed strong personal relationships with his international counterparts, according to Joyce Connery, a member of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. “They trust him. You’ve got parties all over the world who see Dave as an honest broker.”

While Huizenga’s international work has been in high-profile areas, Klotz noted that some of his lower-profile accomplishments are close to home and equally important. 

Huizenga and his team worked to reduce the amount of radioactive materials used in medical and commercial applications. For instance, many U.S. hospitals use radiation for cancer treatments or to run diagnostic tests. In the wrong hands, those radiation sources could be used to make a dirty bomb. 

Huizenga collaborated with medical personnel to reduce reliance on these sources and to make sure that if they are used, they are properly secured and disposed of after use. In cooperation with New York City, he spearheaded a program to reduce the use of radiation to check for and kill off viruses or other pathogens in blood used for transfusions. The city’s hospitals are beginning to substitute other equally effective means to ensure the safety of the blood supply.

Both nationally and internationally, Huizenga has made a difference. 

“He’s a nonproliferation expert and widely regarded not only throughout our government, but by governments around the world,” Brouillette said. “The people of the United States and the entire world are more secure as a result of his work.”