From August 3-5, 2021, the Center for Nuclear Security Science and Policy Initiatives (NSSPI) partnered with Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) to lead the Eighth International Nuclear Facilities Experience (INFE). Traditionally, the INFE is an opportunity for graduate-level engineering and policy students and junior national laboratory staff members working in the area of nuclear material safeguards to visit operating nuclear fuel cycle facilities to gain experiential understanding in facility operations, nuclear materials management, and applied material safeguards directly from practitioners. The 2021 INFE was conducted virtually (given the current COVID-19 situation) and included conceptual presentations on facility operations within the nuclear fuel cycle and virtual tours for four facilities. Sponsored by the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, the INFE was coordinated by NSSPI Director Dr. Sunil Chirayath and Dr. Claudio Gariazzo of ANL.
Whereas past INFEs have been able to support around 20 participants to travel for in-person tours, the 2021 virtual INFE was able to include over 80 participants from twelve institutions. The participants consisted of student interns and staff members from Texas A&M University, the University of New Mexico, Argonne National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, Pantex Nuclear Security Complex, Y-12 National Security Complex, the US State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Nonproliferation and Arms Control.
Chirayath and Gariazzo, along with Lauren Bolden of ANL, gave introductory lectures to explain how each facility of the nuclear fuel cycle operates and how material control and accounting techniques are applied under the international safeguards regime. Jill Cooley of the Y12 National Security Complex also presented a comprehensive overview of the International Safeguards Regime. Facility operators of each facility were invited to present a tour of their respective facility for the participants and provide specific operational insight in how material is accounted for during operations.
The facilities providing virtual tours were: the McMaster Research Reactor near Toronto, Canada; the Dukovany Nuclear Power Station in the Czech Republic; the URENCO Enrichment Facility near Eunice, New Mexico; and the Radioisotope Experimental and Development Center of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US.
One participant remarked, “It was really valuable to see the sites in which safeguards are applied. Hearing from the experts that work in these facilities was very informative.”
Most of the participants agreed that, even though the tours were held virtually, it was useful to see actual facilities and hear from safeguards practitioners.