Robert Alvarez: A Life in Activism

Robert AlvarezThe 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 wide view of a landscape featuring the Hanford nuclear site.


A decades-long effort to clean up one of the most profoundly contaminated nuclear “sacrifice zones” on the planet.

Two activists hold signs. One says "I got cancer living downwind of Trinity". The other says "Seeking justice for the unknowing unwilling and uncompensated participants of the July 16, 1945 Trinity Test".

Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang

A movement-building effort to get justice for victims of the nuclear arms race.

A man walking along the Navajo Irrigation Project

Beyond the Headlights

The tangled politics of protecting the water rights of Indigenous communities.

A map of various oil pipelines in the Western United States

Coal and Water

A clash between ranchers, farmers, and pipeline executives in an arid corner of South Dakota.

A US Army ambulance

The Medic

The trials of an Army medic — and lessons for the years to come.

An illustrated image of an x-ray machine.

Alice and George

How a brilliant epidemiologist kept herself honest with the help of a gifted mathematician.

workers with protective mask and protective clothes in nuclear weapons factory

On the Shoulders of Giants

A pioneering figure in the fight to expose nuclear workplace hazards.

Lush Landscape of Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area Where Lewis and Clark Were on Their Expedition

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.

uranium ore like that which navajo miners mined

Navajo Uranium Miners

A nasty Senate battle over a straightforward case of negligence and injustice.

kitty tucker

My North Star

The remarkable work of my wife Kitty Tucker.

radioactivity sign as a result of nuclear explosions

In the Vadose Zone

Estimating the toll of radioactive fallout — and landing in political exile as a result.

old telephone sitting on a desk

The Inside-Outside Game

How some jars of urine helped get justice for nuclear workers in Ohio.

The East Gate to the Department of Energy’s Pantext Plant.

There’s Gold in Those Bombs

Startling discoveries from inside the Energy Department.