NNSA awards $25 million for nuclear science and security consortium

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has awarded $25 million to the University of California, Berkeley, to lead a multi-institution consortium that will support the nation’s nuclear nonproliferation mission through the training and education of experts in the nuclear security field.

The NNSA today (Thursday, June 9) announced the five-year grant to establish the National Science and Security Consortium (NSSC) at its annual Laboratory Directed Research and Development Symposium at the University of California Washington Center in Washington, D.C.

“Investing in the scientific and technical underpinnings of our program is critical to implementing the President’s nuclear security agenda and to preventing nuclear terrorism or nuclear proliferation,” said Anne Harrington, deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation at the NNSA, a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). “As we push the boundaries of science and discovery, partnerships like the National Science and Security Consortium are a vital part of our effort to invest in the future of our programs by building a strong pipeline of new technical talent to our laboratories.”

UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering will mark the establishment of this center tomorrow, June 10, with a kick-off meeting on campus. Officials from the NNSA Office of Proliferation Detection will be on hand.

The consortium, to be led by principal investigator Jasmina Vujic, UC Berkeley professor of nuclear engineering, brings together more than 100 researchers from Michigan State University; UC Davis; UC Irvine; the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC) based in San Diego; the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and Washington University in St. Louis.

It will focus on the hands-on training of undergraduate and graduate students in the fields of nuclear physics, nuclear and radiation chemistry, nuclear engineering, nuclear instrumentation and public policy. The consortium’s nickname is SUCCESS PIPELINE, which stands for Seven Universities Coordinating Coursework and Experience from Student to Scientist in a Partnership for Identifying and Preparing Educated Laboratory-Integrated Nuclear Experts.

“There is a critical need to protect our nation’s security by keeping nuclear materials and technology from falling into the wrong hands, particularly as more countries, including China, India and Russia, look to expand their nuclear power structure to satisfy the demand for energy,” said Vujic, who will be the director of the consortium. “We need to train the next generation of nuclear science and security experts to succeed the professionals in the field who are now retiring.”

The researchers and students in the consortium will collaborate with four DOE laboratories: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. Vujic credited the decades-long relationship the University of California has with the national laboratories for the success of the grant proposal.

The consortium will also bring in a wider network of affiliates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions and their connections, and 10 primarily undergraduate colleges.

A series of workshops and summer schools will be organized on the topical areas critical to nuclear security. Teaching will be accompanied by an active research component to give the students firsthand experience with advanced theoretical and experimental techniques. Opportunities for graduates are expected to include nuclear-security mission areas at national laboratories. The NSSC will also provide adjunct teaching appointments for national laboratory staff, and will work to establish more joint UC-laboratory faculty positions.

James Siegrist, UC Berkeley professor of physics, is the executive director of the NSSC. The faculty leads for the consortium’s key focus areas are:

  • Nuclear Physics – Eric Norman, UC Berkeley professor of nuclear engineering
  • Nuclear and Radiation Chemistry – Heino Nitsche, UC Berkeley professor of chemistry
  • Nuclear Engineering – Per Peterson, UC Berkeley professor and chair of nuclear engineering
  • Nuclear Instrumentation – Kai Vetter, UC Berkeley professor of nuclear engineering
  • Public Policy – Michael Nacht, UC Berkeley professor of public policy

Siegrist, Norman, Nitsche, Peterson and Vetter also have joint appointments at LBNL.

Leading the research teams at the other six universities in the consortium are Brad Sherrill at Michigan State University; Mani Tripathi at UC Davis; George Miller at UC Irvine; Susan Shirk at the UC IGCC; Ken Czerwinski at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and Suzanne Lapi at Washington University in St. Louis.

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