Interview : Steven Chu

Article excerpt

Byline: John Avlon

The energy secretary and Nobel Prize-winning physicist talks nuclear power after Japan, and being a nerd.

Why shouldn't Americans be concerned about the safety of nuclear power after what they've seen in Japan? Whenever there is an accident, it's very natural to have concern. We'll take this opportunity to look again at all our nuclear sites. We get 20 percent of our electricity from nuclear power, and you just don't turn that off overnight. We think that nuclear power should be part of the mix.

Gas prices have doubled under the Obama administration. Why?

It's supply and demand. We don't have to be a slave to these roller-coaster rides in the oil price if we have other choices for transportation energy.

Do you ever tease Obama about not actually earning his Nobel Prize? Because he doesn't seem to think he deserved it.

No, I think he deserved it. He likes to kind of occasionally yank my chain about being a nerd, which I love.

In one sentence, describe your research.

We used laser light to cool down atoms to very, very low temperatures.

Last summer you wrote a paper called "Subnanometre Single-Molecule Localization Registration and Distance Measurements. …