A select group of early-career safeguards professionals from across the NNSA enterprise came together in September for networking and a hands-on learning experience about safeguards inspection challenges and resources. The event at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and facilities in the surrounding area was designed to increase NNSA’s future capacity by building the diverse understanding young professionals need in nuclear safeguards. The activity, now in its third year, is an annual highlight of NNSA’s Next Generation Safeguards Professional Network.
Safeguards experts are responsible for ensuring that all quantities of nuclear materials are accounted for in nuclear processes, facilities, and equipment. Their success is crucial in ensuring that such materials are not lost, or diverted for nefarious use.
This highly specialized field requires nuclear engineers, statisticians, physicists, chemists, information technology professionals, analysts, and policymakers. “Because of the variety of backgrounds, many young professionals benefit from additional development opportunities to become well rounded in these disciplines,” said Melissa Scholz, Office of Nuclear Safeguards and Security.
For the four-day event, Scholz accompanied nonproliferation staff from six DOE national laboratories that support the NNSA mission. “We designed this experience to increase their familiarity with the facilities, capabilities, and resources available across the NNSA complex,” she said.
Participants saw the inner workings of nuclear production, reactors, reprocessing, and uranium enrichment in real and test facilities. A highlight was discussing real-life inspection challenges with PNNL staff members who formerly worked as inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“Participants came away with a much stronger understanding of how safeguards play into the entire fuel cycle,” Scholz said. “This is exactly what we’re aiming for—ensuring a sustainable safeguards capability for the global security mission.”