S.S. Chirayath, C.M. Marianno, K.H. Ragusa, K.L. Peddicord, “Preparing the Next Generation of Nuclear Security Professionals—The Technology/Policy Nexus”, International Conference on Nuclear Security: Commitments and Actions, Vienna, Austria, 5–9 December 2016.
The threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism makes nuclear security a continuing and growing challenge. This subject has been the focus of four international summits since 2010. To meet this need, it is imperative to prepare the next generation of professionals with nuclear security skills, ranging from awareness to expertise. Nuclear security is a complex, many-faceted issue that blends both policy and technology. Nuclear security policy influences the development and deployment of technology, while technical capabilities enable the scope and breadth of policy decisions. Individuals who simultaneously understand both technological and policy elements will be essential to preparing the next generation, a key part of capacity building to sustain national nuclear security regimes. Historically, professionals in this field have emerged from two divergent backgrounds. Well-established academic programs produced graduates who were strong in policy aspects of nuclear security, but who typically did not have a technical background. Alternatively, universities with engineering programs, especially in nuclear engineering, were feeding the pipeline with nuclear security professionals who had technical knowledge. However, no single program incorporated both the policy and technology elements. In 2006, Texas A&M University and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station attempted to fill this void through establishing the Nuclear Security Science and Policy Institute (NSSPI), a multi-disciplinary organization. NSSPI (/) combines the talent of internationally recognized researchers from the country’s largest nuclear engineering department with renowned policy expertise from the Texas A&M Bush School of Government and Public Service to focus on the complex challenges of nuclear security and create the next generation of nuclear security leaders. NSSPI created new graduate degree programs with specialization in nuclear security and safeguards. Courses in nuclear security and nuclear nonproliferation topics are part of the degree curriculum. Faculty in the Department of Nuclear Engineering teach courses on the technical side, which include materials detection, nuclear fuel cycles, materials safeguards, and nuclear security system design, (/topical-subsections/education/degree-programs). Bush School faculty teach courses on deterrence and coercion, international security, nuclear terrorism threat assessment and analysis, and the role of intelligence in security affairs. All these courses provide graduates with a unique background and perspective. Likewise, research topics (/topical-subsections/research) in NSSPI reflect a similar breadth. Recent research topics include state-level nuclear security measures, terrorism pathway analysis and assessments, and a proliferation resistance analysis and evaluation tool for observed risk (PRAETOR). In addition, students have the opportunity to see the application of technologies through visits to national laboratories that are developing and deploying equipment for international nuclear security missions. With this preparation, graduates of this program are actively recruited and go on to positions in government, industry and international organizations, especially the IAEA. Beyond academic and research activities, NSSPI also reaches out and offers their expertise and experience in this technology/policy focus to countries utilizing nuclear technology or embarking on nuclear energy programs. Curriculum development workshops and conferences on nuclear security have been held with countries in Africa, Asia, and South America. These have been very well received. In addition, to disseminate information on nuclear security, NSSPI teams with a sister institute at TAMU, the Nuclear Power Institute (NPI) that focuses on human resource development for the nuclear industry. NPI (http://www.nuclearpowerinstitute.org) is a unique partnership of industry, universities, two-year community and technical colleges, high schools and junior highs, students, teachers, communities, government agencies, civic and elected leaders, and key stakeholders to prepare the technical workforce for nuclear power and elevate the awareness of the role and benefits of nuclear energy for the economy and society. NPI has a wide range of programs to achieve these goals. In addition, NPI works closely with the IAEA to offer programs to countries with active nuclear energy programs as well as nuclear ‘newcomer’ countries considering the use of nuclear power for the first time. These are done through IAEA programs with individual countries. Through these and other endeavors, NPI has interacted with more than forty countries around the world. Nuclear security is a key consideration for countries embarking on a nuclear power program. It is one of the 19 areas in the ‘Milestones’ document from the IAEA. Recognizing this need, NPI teams with NSSPI to incorporate nuclear security into its international training programs. This is accomplished through lectures and tabletop exercises that allow the participants to be ‘players’ in international nuclear security scenarios and security challenges. The result is to produce a new generation of professionals from countries around the world with a knowledge and appreciation of nuclear security. Through these programs, NSSPI and NPI collectively meet agency goals to assist Member States in enhancing skills and knowledge of nuclear security professionals, promoting a strong nuclear security culture and establishing effective and sustainable national security regimes.