David Huizenga, NNSA’s Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, recently served as president of the Fifth Review Meeting of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria.
The meeting brought together 61 joint convention contracting parties who reviewed national reports, discussed issues and conclusions during the culmination of a three-year peer review process. Huizenga said that previous improvements made to the review process increased the level of parties’ engagement in open and candid exchanges and the sharing of knowledge, intended to enhance the level of safety in radioactive waste and spent fuel management worldwide.
Every year on Memorial Day, we honor the memory of those who died while defending our great Nation. We owe them, as well as their families and loved ones, more than we can ever repay for the sacrifices they have made on our behalf. At 3 p.m. on Monday, wherever you may happen to be, please stop and pause for one minute to remember those service members who answered the call to safeguard our interests around the world and to protect the values we hold dear. It is because of them we continue to enjoy our freedoms as Americans.
Memorial Day also represents the unofficial start of the summer holiday season. We hope that everyone will have a chance to take some well-deserved leave in the weeks ahead. But, as you do, please give careful thought and consideration to safety as you travel and enjoy those outdoor activities traditionally associated with summer. Every year, many Americans suffer serious injuries during the critical 100+ days between Memorial Day and Labor Day. We really do want you to relax and enjoy your time-off. But, we also want you to return home safe and sound.
Frank Klotz and Madelyn Creedon
“Mission First, People Always”
Three researchers from NNSA’s three national labs are among 44 recipients from across the nation to receive significant funding for research as part of DOE’s Early Career Research Program. The effort, now in its sixth year, is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.
The three include:
Yunyan Zhang, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, was selected for her research titled, “The Effect of Soil Moisture and Surface Heterogeneity on Clouds and Precipitation: Inferences from ARM Observations and Large Eddy Simulations.”
Christopher Lee, from Los Alamos National Laboratory was selected for his proposal on “Precision Probes of the Strong Interaction.”
Christopher Kliewer, Sandia National Laboratories California, was selected for his proposal “Interactions between Surface Chemistry and Gas-Phase Combustion: New Optical Tools for Probing Flame-Wall Interactions and the Heterogeneous Chemistry of Soot Growth and Oxidation in Flames.”Strong Interaction.”
Every day, thousands of patients worldwide undergo medical tests, diagnostics, and treatments that use radioactive materials. These vital materials, such as molybdeum-99 (Mo-99), must be produced continuously to keep up with demand. One consequence of some Mo‑99 production is the release of emissions that can complicate international efforts to detect secret nuclear explosions. Nuclear explosion monitoring networks, such as the International Monitoring System (IMS) operated under the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), use sensors that can detect gases released by a nuclear explosion. Mo-99 production emissions from a specific type of production process can interfere with these sensors, complicating the ability of the monitoring networks to detect a nuclear explosion such as the announced North Korean nuclear explosive tests.
Improving U.S. and international nuclear explosion detection efforts is a key objective of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) mission to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation. The NNSA and experts at its National Laboratories play a vital role in strengthening the monitoring and verification capability of the Preparatory Commission for the CTBT Organization (CTBTO PrepCom). NNSA experts work closely with the CTBTO PrepCom to operate, maintain and improve the capabilities of the worldwide IMS, supported by the International Data Centre in Vienna, Austria.
The CTBTO PrepCom, the Belgian Research Institute (SCK•CEN), and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) co-hosted a workshop in Brussels, Belgium from May 11‑14, 2015, to explore innovative ways of reducing the impact of emissions from fission-based medical isotope production on nuclear explosion monitoring networks. This event, the fifth in the series of Workshops on the Signatures of Medical and Industrial Isotope Production (WOSMIP), brought together over 100 international representatives from the nuclear explosion monitoring and isotope production communities.
To date, six current or future Mo-99 producers have signed a voluntary agreement to collaborate with the CTBTO PrepCom to address the issue. The CTBTO PrepCom Executive Secretary encouraged other producers to sign the Radioxenon Emissions Pledge and seek ways to reduce their emissions.
NNSA also stressed the importance of reducing emissions while ensuring the reliable supply of Mo-99 produced without the use of highly enriched uranium.
A recent P5 statement for the 2015 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Review Conference also highlighted this emissions issue. The statement said “The P5 recognize that while medical isotope production is a critically important activity and while the objective of ensuring the security of supply of medical radioisotopes is of utmost importance, they share a common interest in minimizing the interference of xenon radioisotope releases with global radioactive monitoring activity. The P5 believe that all states should engage with producers in their regions to assess the amount of emission and to reduce where it is possible their negative impact on the environment through minimization of emission from fission-based medical isotope production.”
About The Photo: Participants at the fifth Workshop on Signatures of Medical and Industrial Isotope Production (WOSMIP) in Brussels, Belgium
The 2015 NNSA Defense Programs Science Council, comprising representatives from each of the three NNSA national security laboratories and one person representing the production sites, is now fully staffed.
The Science Council was re-established in 2010 by Dr. Don Cook, Deputy Administrator of Defense Programs, to investigate and explore cross-cutting science, technology and engineering issues and opportunities that have an impact across NNSA. The Science Council supports the NNSA’s Defense Programs in a wide range of areas including promoting the best science and technology throughout the enterprise, analyzing stockpile planning and hedge strategies, and communications such as support to the NNSA Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan development. In addition, the Science Council also supports the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, Office of Counterintelligence, DoD and other federal agencies in areas aligned to Defense Programs interests.
About the photo:
Members of the 2015 NNSA Defense Programs Science Council include, from left to right, Kevin Greenaugh, from NNSA headquarters who serves as chairperson of the council, Bob Putnam from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Steven Trujillo from Sandia National Laboratories, Jim Rathkopf from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Rob Steinhoff from the National Security Campus who represents NNSA's production sites.
From May 6-7, a 23-member coalition of officials from NNSA, DOE, the DOE National Laboratories, and other U.S. government agencies traveled to Chengdu, China, for the 10th Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting under the U.S.-China Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology (PUNT) Agreement. PUNT outlines the United States commitment to deepening its working relationship with China to address important global nuclear challenges, and continue expanding cooperation between the two countries on nuclear safety and security issues.
This year’s JCC was co-chaired by NNSA Deputy Administrator Anne Harrington, DOE Assistant Secretary Pete Lyons, and China National Energy Administration (NEA) Director General Liu Baohua. The co-chairs opened the meeting by noting long-standing U.S.-China cooperation in nuclear energy and nonproliferation, and encouraging all participants to build on the achievements of the PUNT Agreement. The co-chairs also called on the PUNT working groups to explore ways of expanding their activities.
The five PUNT Working Groups discussed their joint efforts in nuclear energy technology, nuclear safeguards and security, nuclear environmental waste management, emergency response, and radioactive source security. All the working groups agreed to a program of work to include in the official Record of Meeting.
The U.S. delegation capped off the PUNT events with a tour of the Nuclear Power Institute of China (NPIC) in Chengdu. NPIC led the design and construction of China’s first commercial nuclear power plant.
At a May 11 side event held in conjunction with the 2015 Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the United States and the United Kingdom shared lessons learned from 15 years of cooperative technical work on nuclear arms control verification. Michele Smith of the NNSA’s Office of Nonproliferation and Arms Control, and Attila Burjan of the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment presented and formally released the Joint U.S.-U.K. Report on Technical Cooperation for Arms Control. The report documents collaboration that took place from 2000 to 2015 between the two countries on technologies and methodologies for monitoring and verification of potential future nuclear weapons arms control initiatives. The collaboration—which was motivated by a shared US - UK commitment to Article VI of the NPT—has been essential for developing and exercising innovative verification approaches, particularly in the area of developing and evaluating capabilities to confirm dismantlement of nuclear warheads. The report and presentation in New York provide insight that will benefit other States that have a shared interest in nuclear weapons arms control verification.
A copy of the final document is available here.
NNSA’s current quarterly summary of experiments conducted as part of its science-based stockpile stewardship program is now available here.
The quarterly summary prepared by NNSA’s Office of Defense Programs provides descriptions of key NNSA facilities that conduct stockpile stewardship experiments. These include some of the most sophisticated scientific research facilities in the world including, the Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the Z machine at Sandia National Laboratories. The summary also provides the number of experiments performed at each facility during each quarter.
The U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program sustains and assesses the nuclear weapons stockpile without the use of underground nuclear tests. The experiments carried out within the program are used in combination with complex computational models and NNSA’s Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) Program to assess the safety, security and effectiveness of the stockpile.
About the photo:
Subcritical experiments are conducted in the U1a complex at the Nevada National Security Site. One meter vessels, shown here, are used for these experiments to support the ongoing stockpile stewardship program efforts to assure the safety and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile without underground nuclear weapons testing.
More than 700 delegates from 69 Contracting Parties to the Joint Convention are expected to take part in this meeting hosted at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria from May 11 to 22, 2015. The meeting will discuss each nation’s progress in achieving and maintaining a high level of safety in spent fuel and radioactive waste management, ensuring that there are effective defenses against potential hazards during all stages of management of such materials, and preventing accidents with radiological consequences.
Dave Huizenga, the Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation Program, is the President of the review meeting. “As nations continue to consider the application of nuclear technology to diversify their energy sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we cannot minimize the importance of management of spent fuel and radioactive waste," Huizenga said at the opening of the meeting. “I challenge you to fully consider your global responsibilities to safely manage spent fuel and radioactive waste, protecting current and future generations and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.”
In his opening remarks, Denis Flory, IAEA's Deputy Director General for Nuclear Safety and Security, said, “Therefore let me congratulate everyone for your commitment in this review meeting of the Joint Convention, which will benefit all Contracting Parties and contribute to further enhance safety worldwide.”
The U.S. report will be presented by Monica Regalbuto, Associate Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (EM) at the U.S. Department of Energy, and Scott Moore, Deputy Director of the National Regulatory Commission's Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards.
Review Discussion Aims to Strengthen Safety Measures
A special topical session is part of the review meeting agenda, which will focus on the progress and lessons learned from the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in respect to the safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste management. It will also feature presentations from international experts and the Japanese delegation as well as a discussion panel.
There will also by a special presentation by Frank Marcinowski, EM’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Waste Management, on the events that led to a radiological release from an underground repository known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in February 2014. Marcinowski will provide an overview of the results of the accident investigations, lessons learned, and current status of the recovery efforts.
The peer review process provides Contracting Parties the opportunity to evaluate and discuss in detail safety measures taken to implement the Joint Convention as well as identify any emerging issues.
At the Joint Convention’s previous review meeting in 2012, the Contracting Parties agreed that national reports for the upcoming review meeting should also include discussions on issues such as the management of sealed sources; the safety implications of extended storage periods and the delayed disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste; and international cooperation to find effective solutions for the long-term management and disposal of different types of radioactive waste and spent fuel.
Three years of design, planning and preparation came down to a split second, a loud boom and an enormous splash in a successful impact test of hardware in the nose assembly of an unarmed, mock B61-12 nuclear bomb.
The Sandia National Laboratories test also captured data that will allow analysts to validate computer models of the bomb, part of Sandia’s decade-long effort in the B61-12 Life Extension Program (LEP). An LEP is a way to extend the life of an aging weapon without adding new military capability. The B61-12 LEP is an $8.1 billion NNSA program coordinated across the nation’s nuclear security enterprise. Sandia is working with the NNSA, the program lead, and five NNSA partner sites, industry partners and the U.S. Air Force, the B61-12 customer.
About the photo:
Tyler Keil, lead engineer for a test series using Sandia's Davis gun, performs a final diagnostics check on a data recorder for an impact test on the nose assembly of a mock B61-12. Data gathered from the test is helping analysts calibrate computer models. Photo by Randy Montoya, Sandia.