Nuclear Nonproliferation Summer School Inaugurated at BNL

Students in diverse fields survey the current landscape

Twenty graduate students and four undergraduate students in the fields of international relations, science, and engineering have completed the inaugural session of a three-week summer course on nuclear nonproliferation, safeguards and security. The program is designed to give them a sound understanding of the foundations of the nuclear nonproliferation regime and U.S. programs and policies to meet the emerging nuclear proliferation threats to our security.

Nuclear Nonproliferation Summer School enlarge

Nuclear Nonproliferation Summer School students

The United States is facing the erosion of its intellectual infrastructure of specialists equipped to address the challenge of nuclear proliferation. The emergence of new proliferating states and a more pronounced terrorist threat have led to important adaptations to the tools used to combat nuclear proliferation – treaties, institutions, multilateral arrangements, and technology controls. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards remain a key element of the nuclear nonproliferation regime. In order to continue to strengthen the IAEA safeguards system, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has launched a Next Generation Safeguards Initiative intended to provide enhanced support for the IAEA safeguards system and give the IAEA the resources it needs to do its safeguards job effectively. This course, funded by the NNSA Office of International Regimes and Agreements, is intended to support and encourage the students to pursue careers in the field of nonproliferation, international safeguards, and security.

Developed by Michael Rosenthal and Les Fishbone of Brookhaven and Barclay Ward, a former professor at the University of the South, the Brookhaven course, with exercises and demonstrations, introduced the students to the technologies of international nuclear safeguards and detection of nuclear and other radioactive materials. It also presented them with critical assessments of the current nonproliferation arrangements, while bringing together an unusual group of students from different fields of study.

“It is uncommon to have this mix of students learning in such detail about the role of others in the field and in policy making,” said Ken White, of the Lab’s Office of Educational Programs whose staff helped to coordinate the program.

The students have found the subject matter both interesting and relevant to today’s important issues.

Joel Van Wagenen, Seton Hall University, will soon graduate with a degree in international relations. He said that “since we arrived at the Lab we have heard talks from a variety of speakers who have impressive experience in the field of safeguards and security. Every speaker has piqued our interest and shed light on different facets of safeguards policy and technology. But what I enjoy most is the informal discussions that we have during the breaks or end of the talk.”

Garrett Shields, who holds a graduate degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University, said, “When one of my professors informed me about this program I jumped on the opportunity to participate. I think this is the most detailed, career-oriented program I have ever attended. I’m learning something new every day.”

The students all agreed that understanding both the policy and technical side of their chosen careers will prove worthwhile.

Pat Migliorini graduated from the University of Virginia with a Masters degree in mechanical engineering. He is participating in an internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), where the safeguards group thought the BNL program would be useful to him.

“I am grateful that they offered me the opportunity to take a short break from the ORNL internship to attend this program,” he said. “I think the Brookhaven program has demonstrated how the technical and policy aspects of global safeguards and security issues are intertwined.”

Graduate students Sarah Bender, Shannon Ewan, and Bryan Prior also attended the course. Bender holds a nuclear engineering degree from Penn State University and Ewan and Prior earned their degrees in international studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

“I don’t know of any other program specifically designed for those who are just embarking on a career in safeguards and security,” said Bender.

“It’s been great to break out of our comfort zone,” added Ewan.

Prior said he was impressed by the wide array of experts from agencies such as the State Department who came to the Lab to give talks. “This program has far exceeded my expectations,” he said.

The students hope that the experience at Brookhaven will help them obtain jobs in their field.

“At the end of this program I will hit the pavement and hope to land a job in Washington, D.C.,” said Zachary Whetstone, a third year graduate student in Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences at the University of Michigan. “This program provided me with a great overview of what I can expect in the field.”

The intensive course ended today. Although there was a lot of reading, listening, and discussing, the students still found a little time to have fun. According to Migliorini, “We have all been immersed in the talks but a few of us still found time to go a Yankee game.”

The course, consisting of two three-hour sessions daily, was coordinated, and at times taught, by Rosenthal and Fishbone, respectively nonproliferation and safeguards experts at Brookhaven, assisted by their consultant Ward. Students have also heard from guest speakers including David Albright, a physicist and president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington, D.C. Albright has written numerous assessments on secret nuclear weapons programs throughout the world and has testified many times on nuclear issues before the U.S. Congress. All of the course’s students offered praise to Rosenthal and Fishbone for the program content and quality.

Rosenthal joined Brookhaven as the Head of the Nonproliferation and Safeguards Division in Brookhaven's Nonproliferation and National Security Department in 2007. Prior to that he served in the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) as a member of the Senior Executive Service. He has an extensive background in nuclear nonproliferation and international security issues and broad experience with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), international safeguards, and U.S. Government and international programs aimed at reducing the risks of nuclear and other radioactive material and technology.

Fishbone has spent the last 28 years working in the area of nuclear material safeguards. From 1989 to1993 he worked in the Department of Safeguards of the IAEA in Vienna, Austria and now serves in the MPC&A Cooperative Programs Division and the Nonproliferation and Safeguards Division of the Brookhaven Nonproliferation and National Security Department. His current responsibilities are for tasks relating to upgrading and sustaining nuclear material protection, control and accounting in Russia, where he has traveled many times during the last fourteen years, and for tasks relating to the international verification work of the IAEA.

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