Robert Alvarez: A Life in Activism
The Institute for Policy Studies has always been unique among D.C.-based think tanks because of its “inside-outside” strategy. While most research organizations try to get their work in front of media and policy makers, from its earliest beginnings IPS has also prioritized deep relationships with social movements and advocates.
And few public scholars in history have done more either “inside” or “outside” than our nuclear policy expert, Robert “Bob” Alvarez.
Bob won a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022 from the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. They called him “one of the bedrock founders of the national movement to unmask the human and environmental carnage that resulted directly from the U.S. production of a massive nuclear arsenal.”
For decades, Bob has worked as an activist and expert both in and out of government — not just to fight nuclear proliferation, but to witness, document, and rectify the extraordinary crimes against marginalized U.S. communities and the environment by the nuclear weapons complex.
As a writer, organizer, Senate staffer, and Department of Energy official, Bob’s traveled the country making common cause with “downwinders” sickened by U.S. nuclear tests, Navajo uranium miners suffering the effects of exposure, and nuclear workers abandoned by the government that employed them.
Over his long career, he’s managed to stop destructive projects, clean up contaminated sites, get justice for communities who’ve been harmed, and even to dismantle nuclear weapons, sell them for scrap, and return the proceeds to U.S. taxpayers.
He’s a co-founder of the Environmental Policy Institute, a longtime senior scholar at IPS, and a regular contributor to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
In honor of Bob’s lifetime of achievement, we’ve collected some of his memoirs about his work. In an age when the progressive movement needs hope, determination, and victories, Bob’s decades of work offer all three. Enjoy!
A decades-long effort to clean up one of the most profoundly contaminated nuclear “sacrifice zones” on the planet.
Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang
A movement-building effort to get justice for victims of the nuclear arms race.
Coal and Water
A clash between ranchers, farmers, and pipeline executives in an arid corner of South Dakota.
Alice and George
How a brilliant epidemiologist kept herself honest with the help of a gifted mathematician.
Remembering the Nch’i-Widna — ‘The Big River’
How a local Indigenous community remembers the Lewis and Clark expedition — and the nuclear exploitation that followed.
In the Vadose Zone
Estimating the toll of radioactive fallout — and landing in political exile as a result.