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Integrated Nuclear Security & Safeguards Laboratory

INSSL Director Addresses Challenges to Nuclear Security and Safeguards at ANS-NE Meeting

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By Chris McKallagat

Increasing threats from international terrorism and fears of additional states gaining nuclear weapons capabilities challenge the integrity of existing nuclear safeguards and security systems. To address this important topic, the American Nuclear Society Northeastern Section (ANS-NE) invited INSSL Director Dr. Sukesh Aghara, Associate Professor of Nuclear Engineering at UMass Lowell, to be the featured speaker at a meeting focused on next generation approaches to nuclear security and safeguards. Dr. Aghara’s presentation highlighted the need for greater international cooperation, effective security culture and a comprehensive human resource development program related to nuclear security and safeguards. 

To meet these challenges, as Dr. Aghara elaborated to the audience of nuclear industry professionals, INSSL is building a multi-disciplinary program at UMass Lowell to promote research, education and training in an effort to expand the human resource pool with the needed mix of both scientific and policy-relevant knowledge in nuclear security and safeguards. The American Nuclear Society (ANS) is a not-for-profit, international, scientific and educational organization. The Northeastern Section serves the nuclear community in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont with the primary constituency being in the greater Boston and Eastern Massachusetts area. The Northeastern Section's mission is to provide a forum for the professional and public exchange of information regarding nuclear related science and engineering topics, and for the development of the individuals and organizations involved in such endeavors.

UMass Lowell is one of only four universities in New England to have its own ANS-NE student chapter. Throughout his presentation, Dr. Aghara stressed that effective policy requires understanding the causes of lapses in security that, under different circumstances, could have been catastrophic. Recent examples of nuclear security incidents with seemingly limited consequences, albeit significantly greater potential for a nuclear security disaster, include a security breach at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, TN in 2012, a break-in at the South African nuclear facility in Pelindaba in 2007, as well as reported attempts to smuggle nuclear materials that were ultimately broken-up by law enforcement officials at different stages of planning. 

To highlight the complex and highly technical challenges face by officials charged with preventing and responding to nuclear security incidents such as these, Dr. Aghara engaged the ANS-NE audience using short discussion-based exercises based on scenarios developed from careful case study analysis of the causes of past incidents