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ODU's Gheorghe Is the Organizer of a NATO Advanced Research Workshop in Eastern Europe

Adrian Gheorghe, the Batten Endowed Chair in system of systems engineering at Old Dominion University, is part of a team of critical infrastructure experts who have won a $60,000 grant from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to organize and present an Advanced Research Workshop later this year on "Energy Security in the Black Sea Area."

Presentations at the conference, which will be held in Bucharest, Romania, will be collected in a book that could help numerous countries update and strengthen their energy security plans. Gheorghe will serve as an editor of the book.

Recent developments have heightened the strategic interests that Western countries have in the nations surrounding the Black Sea.

Romania and Bulgaria have joined Turkey as members of NATO, and at the NATO Summit in Bucharest in April 2008 the possibility was discussed of Georgia and Ukraine also joining the organization. In addition, Romania and Bulgaria became members in 2007 of the European Union (EU).

Heads of state and governments meeting at the Bucharest summit issued a declaration stressing NATO's intention to support the protection of critical energy infrastructure, and the Black Sea region currently is a key hub of energy activity.

The energy security of Europe and other Western countries is likely to become increasingly dependent upon the import of oil and other hydrocarbon fuels from the Caspian Basin and Central Asia. The strategic significance of the region is heightened by the fact that it is at the juncture of Europe, Russia, Asia and the Middle East. Russia, for example, opposes NATO and EU expansion around the Black Sea, and any sort of conflict-be it political, military or economic-could adversely affect energy development and transport in the region.

A Romanian by birth who was educated in Bucharest and London, Gheorghe joined ODU in 2006. During a career of nearly 30 years, he has become one of the world's leading risk engineers. Before coming to ODU he directed the Centre of Excellence on Risk and Safety Sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He is vice president of the World Security Forum and honorary president of EURISC (European Institute for Risk and Security), which is one of the sponsors of the workshop that the recent NATO grant will support. The Advanced Research Workshops are the highest-level event that NATO sponsors.

Other co-directors of the workshop are Liviu Muresau, executive president of the EURISC Foundation; Arcadie Barbarosie, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy in Chisinau, Republic of Moldova; and Manol Yanchev, executive director of the Centre for Southeast European Studies in Bulgaria. The workshop, which is tentatively set for early October, is projected to attract about 35 key infrastructure experts and policymakers. Countries from the Black Sea area that will have representatives include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine. Participants also are expected from Russia, the United States and most European countries.

Gheorghe is among the pioneers in applying system of systems engineering to risk assessment and management. He and colleagues in Europe have developed computational models for these purposes, with a focus on risks from sabotage, terrorism, cyber vandalism and natural disasters. At ODU he is continuing this work at the university's National Centers for System of Systems Engineering.

Energy infrastructures in the Black Sea area would include pipelines, and some have been proposed to move oil and gas from the eastern side of the sea to Central and Western European countries. Shipping also would be part of the energy transport infrastructure, and risk/security concerns in the region would extend to electricity generation and grids.

The workshop, Gheorghe said, will consider research that has been conducted and research that is needed to present a clearer picture of infrastructure risks in the Black Sea area. Many components of the energy infrastructures in the region have come to exist in a piecemeal fashion, and may be particularly vulnerable to modern-day risks and threats, he explained. Any thorough study of the subject requires sophisticated computer analysis and a system of systems approach that looks at interdependencies. For instance, how might political uncertainties, or even a washed-out bridge on a main highway, affect energy distribution in a country? Or, has the political discourse about energy risks in the area been accurate?

Gheorghe, who edits the journal Critical Infrastructures and wrote the book "Critical Infrastructures at Risk" (Springer 2006), will be the lead editor of the book that emerges from the workshop-"Energy Security in the Black Sea Area: Critical Infrastructures Protection and System of Systems Engineering."

This article was posted on: July 18, 2008

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