A Smarter Course: Filling the Gap in Training Safeguards Experts

Jennifer Hart - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
David Springfels - Pacific Northwest National Lab
Alexis Banasky Moore - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Kevin Goreke - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
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Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has offered and maintained an introductory course on nonproliferation and international safeguards for students and early career professionals for the past decade. In 2020, PNNL transitioned the course to virtual facilitation as a result of the COVID19 pandemic. The team at PNNL utilized the transition period as an opportunity to change the curriculum from an introductory to an intermediate course. This transition changed the target audience to early and mid-career professionals who wish to expand their understanding of nonproliferation and international safeguards concepts. The new International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards: From Theory to Practice course includes several lectures, demonstrations, and exercises presented by experts on topics ranging from the nuclear fuel cycle to in-field verification activities. The PNNL team also developed technical activities to compliment the more advanced level of curriculum. These improved virtual training activities used information from a PNNL-developed State File for a Pacific Northwest-centric, faux country called “Flumina.” For the past two years, the course creators utilized new virtual collaboration tools (i.e., Mural) to conduct various exercises. Such virtual tools were critical to refocusing the course topics on the implementation and process of IAEA safeguards. Exercises featured in the course included: • A nuclear fuel cycle mapping exercise where students identified relevant information from the draft Flumina State Evaluation report to complete a fuel cycle diagram, map facilities, and track nuclear material flow • A design information verification exercise—including virtual layouts and walkthroughs of facilities—where students reviewed operator declarations, verified facility design and layout, and analyzed the data to confirm accuracy of the declaration • A facility-level safeguards implementation exercise where students performed a diversion pathway analysis to analyze proliferation/diversion pathways, establish and prioritize technical objectives, identify key safeguards measures/activities for facility-level implementation, and illustrate how containment/surveillance measures help verify operator records and systems • A State Evaluation exercise where students learned the techniques the IAEA uses to evaluate a State’s nuclear fuel cycle and implement safeguards