The NFE grew out of the Foreign Field Experience (FFE), originally conceived as a hands-on component that would enrich the educational experience of students participating in the Russian Academic Program for Nonproliferation and International Security (RAP-NIS). The FFE was originally created to provide an opportunity for Russian students to visit another country’s nuclear facilities and experience operators’ testimonies on safeguards applications.
The FFE was highly successful at exposing the students to other facilities and to the international nuclear industry community at large. Considering the international nature of most work in nuclear nonproliferation, this stage of the RAP-NIS endeavor catered to the notion that the next generation of nonproliferation and safeguards specialists would benefit from early exposure to the vast network that expanded beyond their nation’s borders.
Initial visits in 2006 included tours of nuclear facilities in the U.S., Belgium, and France by students from Russian universities. In 2007, Texas A&M students joined students from Russia to participate in visits to facilities in Switzerland, including the Labor Spiez (a CBRN national defense laboratory), the Paul Scherrer Institute, the Zwilag Storage Facility, and the Leibstadt Nuclear Power Plant. The students benefited greatly from interacting with students from other nations as part of their “foreign” experience.
In 2010, the FFE took a group of Russian and American students to the UK, where they discussed potential future collaborations with faculty and staff at the University of Manchester’s Dalton Nuclear Institute (DNI) and the Center for Science and Security Studies (CSSS) at King’s College, London. The experience also included visits to the URENCO Gas Centrifuge Enrichment plant in Capenhurst, the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant and the Vitrification Plant at the Sellafield Ltd. site in Seascale, and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s Pelham House Employee Training Center in Calder Bridge.
The Nuclear Facility Experience
In 2013 the FFE model was altered to include students from the US, Russia, and Viet Nam in what became the Nuclear Facilities Experience (NFE). The group visited facilities throughout Japan, including the the Monju Fast Breeder Reactor R&D Center, the Fugen Decommissioning Center, the Mihama Nuclear Power Plant, the Integrated Support Center for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Nuclear Security (ISCN) of the Japan Atomic Energy Authority, and the Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited Rokkasho Uranium Enrichment Plant, Vitrification Storage Facility, and Reprocessing Plant. Participants also visited the Hiroshima Peace Park and heard the account of a 84-year-old Hiroshima survivor.
The NFE took students from five US universities and young professionals from three national laboratories to the UK in 2015. The tour included visits to the Urenco uranium enrichment plant in Capenhurst, the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) at Sellafield, the world’s first commercial nuclear power plant at Calder Hall (consisting of 4 Magnox reactors), and the Heysham Nuclear Power Plant (consisting of 4 advanced gas-cooled reactors). The UK NFE also included a stop at King’s College London, where participants interacted with faculty and students from the Centre for Science and Security Studies in the Department of War Studies at King’s College. Both host faculty and visitors presented lectures on nuclear security topics.
In 2016, the NFE returned to Japan with students and staff from six US universities and five national laboratories. They visited Hiroshima Peace Park and the Peace Memorial Museum, as well as several advanced nuclear fuel facilities in Japan, including two reactor facilities, one nuclear power plant, two reprocessing facilities, one MOX fuel fabrication facility, one uranium enrichment plant, and two national research laboratories.