Every effort aimed at nuclear prevention
FREQUENTLY wearing a bow tie, Paul Leventhal looked like an establishment dandy amid arms control radicals - until he opened his mouth. Compelling, sometimes abrasive, and latterly president emeritus of the Nuclear Control Institute, which he founded 25 years ago, Leventhal was an adversary of atomic enthusiasts like no other, demanding respect from his staunchest opponents with his political insight and thoroughness of research.
Leventhal's work was at the heart of key security issues: nuclear terrorism, Iran's atomic aspirations, North Korea's atomic ambitions, and the future of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which is up for review in Vienna next month.
During his 21 years as the institute's president, he prepared five books, including the pathbreaking Nuclear Terrorism Taskforce final report (1985), and lectured on the threat of nuclear proliferation.
His concerns were nuclear power and the spread of nuclear weapons; nuclear terrorism and how to prevent it; Saddam Hussein and the bomb; the role of India and Pakistan; and plutonium reprocessing and disposal.
Born in New York, the son of a furrier, Leventhal graduated in government from Pennsylvania's Franklin and Marshall College. After a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York, he worked as an investigative reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, New York Post and Newsday.
In 1969 the liberal Democrat became press secretary to the Republican New York senator Jacob Javits. In 1972 he served as congressional correspondent for the National Journal before returning to Capitol Hill to pursue legislative and investigative responsibilities.
He was most proud of his roles in revelations of the Plumbat affair in 1977, when, in a high-seas heist, Israel obtained 200 tonnes of uranium for its secret nuclear weapons program, and in the drafting of the US Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act (1978), possibly the most far-reaching legislative attempt to control the spread of nuclear weapons capability.
From 1976 to 1977 he was a research fellow on Harvard University's program for science and international affairs, concentrating on nuclear weapons proliferation. He also served in policy and planning at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
He was director of the senate special investigation into the Three Mile Island nuclear accident (1979-80), and prepared the "lessons learned" legislation enacted in 1980 to require preventive measures and emergency planning for future accidents. From 1979 to 1981 he was staff director of the senate nuclear regulation subcommittee.
He warned of the risk of terrorist attacks on nuclear plants, and rejected nuclear power as an answer to climate change. It would take 3000 plants, he wrote in 2001, "a tenfold increase, to replace all coal plants; yet that increase would reduce carbon emissions by only 20 per cent, while enormously expanding risks that materials from nuclear power plants would be applied to making weapons".
Leventhal loved the theatre, explored the Grand Canyon, and always took his Speedos when he travelled.
His wife, Sharon, survives him, with sons Ted and Josh and two grandchildren.
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