W.S. Charlton, D. Boyle, S.S. Chirayath, D.G. Ford, C.A. Gariazzo, C. Marianno, K. Ragusa, A. Solodov, “Nuclear Nonproliferation and Safeguards Education at TAMU: Embracing Novel Teaching Practices”, Proceedings of the INMM 52nd Annual Meeting, Palm Desert, CA, July 17-21, 2011.
The Nuclear Security Science and Policy Institute (NSSPI) has established a Master of Science degree in Nuclear Nonproliferation, Safeguards, and Security within the Nuclear Engineering Department at Texas A&M University (TAMU). Since 2004, twenty-two students have received MS degrees in this area and over 200 (technical and political) students have taken classes offered by NSSPI at TAMU. If not currently pursuing doctoral degrees, graduates of the program have since begun careers at national laboratories, private industry, the intelligence community, power utilities, and academia. Further, the model for educating safeguards and security experts is being changed at TAMU. Beyond conventional classroom lectures, NSSPI has been developing alternative educational models based on practical experience, asynchronous learning portals, and virtual courses. Due to the experimental and practical past experiences of NSSPI staff and faculty, a heavy hands-on component has been implemented for TAMU nuclear engineering graduate students: hands-on education at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, visiting nuclear installations in other countries to discuss applied safeguards, and summer internships at several national laboratories. In an effort to disseminate basic nuclear education for professionals and students around the globe, NSSPI has developed a publically-available online resource that offers self-paced, independent course modules in basic safeguards education: the Nuclear Safeguards Education Portal. Current modules (including Basic Nuclear Physics, The Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Radiation Detection, and Statistics) consist of reading materials, supporting video from TAMU professors and subject matter experts from the national labs and industry, along with links to additional resources. Another venture utilized by NSSPI is using a virtual TAMU campus in Second Life to hold classes for students. Recently, MS-level students taking a critical analysis of nuclear security data course created Second Life avatars and attended courses online from their home computers. This endeavor is currently being pursued as a surrogate for distance education lectures and, ultimately, to incorporate practical/experimental training. NSSPI is building upon a successful academic program by embracing new educational means. This paper describes the current efforts NSSPI and TAMU have undertaken in strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation and safeguards human resource capacity domestically and internationally and the lessons learned from these efforts.