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.
Washington State University (WSU) mechanical engineering students last week delivered their senior project — a mock nuclear fuel rod assembly — to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory managers.
The project will ultimately be used in training international nuclear security agents.
PNNL executes the Next Generations Safeguards Initiative Human Capital Development for NNSA. The goal is attract highly qualified students to work with PNNL experts on projects supporting nonproliferation and Safeguards. Working with regional universities, such as WSU, PNNL creates opportunities for university students to apply their education to real projects that are addressing national security challenges.
Six NNSA teams today received the 2015 DOE Secretarial Honor Award, the highest internal non-monetary recognition that DOE employees can receive. The awards are designed to recognize the career service and contributions of employees to the mission of the department and to the benefit of the nation. DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz recognized the teams for surpassing the highest standards of excellence and for demonstrating great knowledge and ability and for exhibiting an exceptional commitment to public service.
Highly Enriched Uranium Transparency Team
This award is given to the NNSA Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Transparency Team for their exceptional teamwork, dedication, and technical expertise in ensuring that the major goals of the 1993 United States-Russian Federation HEU Purchase Agreement were successfully achieved in 2013. Members: Gregory Dwyer, Connie Haga, Susan Martindale, Dennis Meyers, Kristin Oland, Dave Thomas and William Wanderer.
Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence Analytic Team
In recognition of their contributions to a technically challenging and high priority Intelligence Community Assessment, the results of which will have a direct impact on Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration policy and budgetary decisions. Their expert analytic inputs and extraordinary dedication to an intensive and complex interagency coordination process resulted in an assessment that effectively examines and explains complex technical subjects. Their efforts represent significant achievement in advancing the United States Government’s understanding of a growing foreign nuclear threat and its implications for the Department of Energy and national security policy. Members: Briggs W. Atherton, Christopher F. Carson, Dale H. Darling, Gregory J. DiPeso, Thomas J. Grab, Carl R. Hagelberg, Arlen S. Heger, Mark S. Jarzemba, Brian E. Kanagaki, Thomas D. Kunkle, Aaron R. Miles, Brent A. Palmer, Jason A. Pruet, Joseph C. Sanders, Ana M. Schwendt, William J. Tedeschi, Charles W. Wilkerson, Jr., Deborah A. Wojtowicz, James K. Wolford, Jr.
NNSA Production Office (NPO) Management & Operating (M&O) Contract Placement Team
The NNSA Production Office (NPO) Management & Operating (M&O) Contract Placement Team is recognized for the extraordinary effort put forth in developing an innovative procurement strategy, awarding a highly competitive $23 billion contract, and commencing contract administration efforts on a vehicle that could save DOE more than $3 billion during the life of the contract. Members: Leticia Y. Barela, Young H. Cho, Justin A. Crosby, Robert A. Edlund, Kim M. Gallegos, Chad W. Glines, Karen L. Hart, Kenneth A. Hoar, Charmaine A. Howson, Jason D. Kugler, JiSan A. Lopez, Joseph M. Newell, Daniel J. Saiz and Robert W. Scott.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Review Support Team
For outstanding meritorious achievement in support of an independent review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), from June 2012 to February 2014, of the nuclear reactor plant designed for the GERALD R. FORD Class of aircraft carriers. Members: Philip N. Breneman, William E. Chestnut, Mark A. Dietrick, Stephen E. Fisher, Ismael L. Garcia, Alan W. Gibney, Paul E. Hartnett, Dimitrios Kokkinos, Aaron D. Lentner, Mark E. Madonia, Matthew C. Napoli, Thomas E. Roberts and Gordon N. Szeto.
Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building (RLUOB) Transition Team
In recognition of contributions to the RLUOB Transition Team, whose excellence in teamwork and performance enabled implementation of a key step in the NNSA Plutonium Infrastructure Strategy. This transition to operations, which resulted from the team’s dedication, leadership, hard work, and countless hours from January to June of 2013, represents a significant milestone in the modernization of the plutonium infrastructure and establishes a path forward in the cessation of operations in the aging CMR Building. The RLUOB, a state-of-the-art analytical laboratory facility, will allow Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Department of Energy (DOE) to advance national security science and support DOE missions in a more modern, safe, and efficient infrastructure. For efforts and dedication to DOE missions, the RLUOB Transition Team is awarded the Secretary of Energy’s Achievement Award. Members: Brett A. Cederdahl, David L. Gallimore, Tim R. Leckbee, Mark W. Myatt, Timothy O. Nelson, Michael J. Parkes, Denise L. Thronas, Scott A. Warnock, Dr. Amy S. Wong
US/UK Mutual Defense Agreement Amendment Team
In recognition of your exceptional teamwork and dedication to ensure successful completion of the timely negotiation and amendment to the 1958 United States/United Kingdom (US/UK) Mutual Defense Agreement (MDA). Members: Steve Alldridge, Mark Arnone, Jeffrey Avery, Michael Bodin, Daniel Dalton, Laura Fellow, Harry Heintzelman, Monica Knapp, Tony Lott, Alex Mikulsky, Matthew Napoli, John Plumb, Sarah Prosser, Frank Putzu, Brooke Samples, Katie Strangis and Carl Tierne.
Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (DNN) Anne Harrington welcomed Ratanang Margin Moagi from the Department of Energy of South Africa and Ramasukudu Gabriel Pitsoane of the South African National Nuclear Regulator to the NNSA’s and International Atomic Energy Agency’s 25th International Training Course (ITC) on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities at Sandia National Laboratories.
The participation of South African officials at the ITC is just the latest activity in a long-term collaboration between NNSA and South Africa. This partnership has resulted in specific accomplishments that have improved nuclear material security conditions in South Africa while enabling the peaceful uses of nuclear technology – in particular, the secure production of isotopes for medical purposes. These activities are ongoing, and future projects will continue to benefit South Africans and the international community.
A key area of NNSA cooperation with the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation’s (Necsa) Pelindaba Site has been to collaborate on meeting International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines for physical protection of nuclear facilities and materials. For the past five years, NNSA in cooperation with Necsa, has been working to enhance security at several buildings at Necsa’s Pelindaba site, including the central and secondary alarm stations. The teams completed this work at the site in July 2014. A U.S. interagency delegation visited in August 2014 to review the newly installed systems, affirming that the buildings at Pelindaba where NNSA and Necsa collaborated are secured consistent with the highest international standards.
DNN is continuing to work with Necsa to secure additional rooms containing high priority radioactive sources and other materials of concern at the Pelindaba site. In Sandia National Laboratories hosted Necsa security staff for Central Alarm Station operations training on best practices for improving assessment and response capabilities.” In addition, DNN is partnering with the Ministry of Health to provide security enhancements at high priority radiological sites throughout the country. NNSA and Necsa will continue to work together to identify future joint projects designed to secure both nuclear and radiological materials at facilities inside and outside the Pelindaba site.
DNN pursues permanent threat reduction through the removal or elimination of weapons-usable nuclear material. In 2011, the United States completed the removal of all U.S.-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) in South Africa. In the announcement of the removal Harrington said, “The completion of this project is another example of the close partnership between NNSA and the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, and the significant technical expertise and professionalism of Necsa were key factors in the success of the operation.”
In 2008, NNSA and Necsa successfully completed the conversion of South Africa’s SAFARI-1 research reactor from using highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. With this conversion, there are no longer any nuclear reactors in South Africa using HEU fuel.
NNSA continues to work with South Africa to convert their process to produce the medical isotope Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) at the SAFARI-1 reactor to using only LEU. NTP Radioisotopes (a subsidiary of Necsa) successfully achieved the first large-scale production of Mo-99 using LEU targets in 2010. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved NTP-produced Mo-99 from LEU targets for U.S. patient care in 2010, and NTP’s material continues to be regularly imported into the United States by U.S. generator manufacturers for use in patient care today. NNSA’s Y-12 National Security Complex has an ongoing commitment to provide Necsa with LEU to support the future production of Mo-99 at the SAFARI-I reactor.
South Africa also has led regional activities to improve nuclear security efforts in Africa. In February 2014, South Africa welcomed a Southern Africa regional seminar in Pretoria (co-hosted by the European Union and the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies). National authorities from South Africa and 12 other southern African countries joined in discussions on activities related to nuclear and radiological materials. The seminar highlighted new developments in the region’s nuclear activities, notably in uranium mining, and identified ways to address the challenges that these new activities pose to nuclear safety, transport and uranium ore concentrate [PHOTO 5] security, safeguards, and radiological source security in the region.
In addition, NNSA and its South African partners have cooperated on issues related to the implementation of international safeguards. For example, DNN provided a measurement system, along with associated training and maintenance, to develop Necsa’s ability to more precisely measure the quantity of South African origin HEU in waste drums to allow more accurate reporting of its HEU holdings to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). DNN also is providing a specialized system to measure the amount of uranium residue in byproducts of radioisotope production at the NTP Radioisotopes (NTP) facility. This unique measurement system is expected to be operational in 2015 and provides measurements in support of radioisotope production at the NTP facility, meeting International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards accounting requirements.
NNSA has extensive cooperation with South Africa in support of its efforts to strengthen the country’s export control system, DNN provided Commodity Identification Training-Instructor Training (CIT-IT) to the Republic of South Africa (RSA) and supplied South Africa with a “localized” version of a searchable commodity data base. For three years, South Africa has participated in a multilateral Technical Experts Working Group (TEWG), in which participants share best practices in licensing, enforcement and outreach. DNN (with the support of the Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security [EXBS] Program) will hold an outreach workshop at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in May 2015 to help the South African Department of Trade and Industry engage with its domestic industry partners. The workshop will include the participation of South African experts, a U.S., multi-laboratory team and a U.S. Department of Commerce expert. NNSA hopes that South Africa will continue exchanges in this area, either bilaterally or through regional arrangements.
DNN and South Africa also cooperate on efforts to further develop Necsa’s nuclear forensics capabilities. NNSA has provided several trainings to Necsa both in the United States and in South Africa, in coordination with the State Department. IN May 2015, NNSA will hold a course for Necsa staff at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). NNSA has also advised Necsa on the procurement of equipment and on the construction of a clean room for forensics analysis. This partnership demonstrated its value when Necsa was called on to analyze a uranium sample that was seized in Durban, South Africa on November 19, 2013. Scientists from Necsa and LLNL jointly published a report on that event. In addition, NNSA remains interested in working with South Africa on the deployment of radiation detection systems at key points of entry and exit in South Africa as part of its global effort to counter nuclear and radiological smuggling
In addition to cooperation with NNSA, South Africa is a participant in the Nuclear Security Summit process, attending each of the three Summits since 2010, and has collaborated with the UNSCR Committee to provide training in southern Africa. Finally, South Africa also engages actively with the IAEA in areas of nuclear safety, security and peaceful uses of nuclear technology. IAEA Director General Yukia Amano, speaking on March 18, 2015 in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the SAFARI-I reactor, said, “South Africa is an experienced user of advanced nuclear technology, a leader in many areas, and a valued partner for the International Atomic Energy Agency. Your country provides an excellent example of how modern technology can be used effectively to advance development and improve people’s lives. The IAEA is proud to have worked closely with you on your journey.”