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Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
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6

National Security

 

INTRODUCTION

Following the discovery of fission in heavy elements (Z ≥ 90) in 1938, developments in the field of nuclear science were driven by practical applications, and none more pressing than the potential for military application of fission energy release in “atom bombs.” From the beginning, therefore, developments in nuclear and radiochemistry (and stewardship of these disciplines) have been closely associated with their application in national security; these missions continue to drive the need for fundamental research (see Box 3-1). From the initial development of nuclear weapons, expertise in fields of nuclear and radiochemistry have expanded to address a broader range of security-related challenges, including those in intelligence, nonproliferation, nuclear security and emergency response and, more recently, counterterrorism and homeland security. The growth in efforts beyond those associated with the nuclear stockpile is demonstrated in a recent interagency science and technology roadmap spearheaded by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (NSTC 2008). This effort outlines program areas contributing to “domestic nuclear defense.” While many of these activities build on capabilities established to support the nuclear weapons program, future employment demands will naturally reflect application of these skills in a broader spectrum of programs.

Unlike some of the other application areas examined earlier in this report (for example, energy and medicine), workforce needs for nuclear and radiochemists in the area of national security are associated largely with mission-driven programmatic activities and with research, both funded by the federal government. In assessing the demand for the future workforce required to execute national security missions, it is necessary to examine needs arising from programs sponsored by a number of different government agencies.

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
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Currently, the Departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DOD) share joint responsibility for nuclear weapons activities in the United States. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) within the DOE is charged with “ensuring a credible U.S. nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing and includes operations associated with surveillance, assessment, maintenance, refurbishment, manufacture, and dismantlement of nuclear weapons in the stockpile, as well as research and development and certification efforts. The NNSA nuclear weapons complex is comprised of DOE weapons labs, manufacturing plants, and facilities that carry out this mission” (DATSD[NM]), 2011). The NNSA also serves as the major agency funding work in nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear emergency response. Nearly all programs within NNSA are recognized to depend on nuclear science as a core discipline and nuclear and radiochemistry are considered critical skills needed to successfully execute its broad-based missions (Pruet and Rahn 2011). Other departments and agencies funding work that requires the expertise of nuclear and radiochemists include the DOD, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, and organizations within the intelligence community. Work supporting national security missions is carried out not only in the nuclear weapons complex, but in other national laboratories and in academic institutions.

TECHNICAL NEEDS AND WORKFORCE CONSIDERATIONS

Rather than presenting an inventory of staffing needs for each agency discussed above, the committee looked at the utilization of nuclear and radiochemistry expertise by major program area (weapons, nonproliferation and arms control, counterterrorism, and homeland security) and the likely resulting directions workforce demands will take based on the technical needs and possible bounding scenarios (or policy decisions).

Nuclear Weapons Program

Technical Needs

The earliest contributions of nuclear and radiochemists to the Manhattan Project in the 1940s were associated with the production and separation of fissionable material. As early as the Trinity test in 1945, nuclear and radiochemical methods were recognized for their potential use for diagnosing device performance. Within the nuclear weapons complex design laboratories (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory [LLNL] and Los Alamos National Laboratory [LANL]), the traditional mission of nuclear and radiochemists was

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

to support the Nuclear Test Program. This effort, often referred to simply as “radchem,” included developing techniques and methods to determine the performance of nuclear devices by measuring radioisotopes produced first in aboveground tests and then, after the passage of the Limited Test Ban Treaty 1963, in underground tests. This effort required the development of ways to collect device debris and new methods for chemically separating reaction products from collected debris. Also required was the development of new and more precise ways of quantifying the radioactive isotopes whether they decayed by alpha or beta particle emission or the emission of gamma-rays and x-rays. Because of the varied decay paths of radioisotopes, their spectra are complicated and identification of radioisotopes required monitoring the change in the decay spectra as a function of time. Since both the energy and half-life were needed to verify and quantify radioactive reaction products, this drove the need for automation and the ability to handle and archive large amounts of data. Since not all reaction products are amenable to measurement by radiation detection (for example, some isotopes have long half lives or are nonradioactive), mass spectrometry techniques were also developed and utilized to enable the measurement of changes in isotopic ratios of elements and, as a result, nuclear reactions occurring during device detonation.1 Thus, the “radchem” effort—in support of the Nuclear Test Program—led to advances in many areas, such as separations science, radiation detection, mass spectrometry, and instrument automation (including data acquisition systems and small-scale stand alone computers). These advances also involved pushing existing and emerging techniques to lower detection limits and higher energy resolution to maximize the information that could be derived from the analysis of device debris. These capabilities further enabled nuclear and radiochemists to devise and carry out experiments to obtain more accurate and a wider variety of fundamental nuclear data such as cross sections, decay schemes, and half-lives needed to interpret the post-test radiochemical data.

Following the cessation of nuclear testing in 1992, a science-based approach for annual certification of nuclear warheads with aging, replaced, or modified nuclear components was adopted by the DOE’s Defense Program. The ability to certify performance of the U.S. nuclear stockpile in the absence of nuclear testing is embodied in what is now called the Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP). The fundamental concept of the SSP is to:

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1 Mass spectrometry also played an important role in fissile material production, especially with characterizing the feed, product, and tails streams from uranium enrichment and in analyzing irradiated uranium for plutonium production.

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

•  Assess any discovered or introduced source of change in the nuclear components (aging, remanufacture, or design change) with high fidelity computer simulations,

•  Use laboratory experiments and the nuclear test history to validate and improve particular aspects of the simulations (reducing uncertainties), and finally

•  Apply improved and validated physics models in large-scale simulations to assess uncertainties and margins in the warheads.

However, as the stockpile continues to age, certification becomes an increasingly difficult task. Although many of the related issues are addressed by lifetime extension programs (LEPs), nuclear weapon systems continue to evolve beyond the conditions under which they were tested. To guide the certification approach and elucidate the specific details of physical phenomena that require experiments and improved models in simulation codes, a process called quantification of margins and uncertainties (QMU) was developed. The goal of the SSP is to have a predictive capability to extrapolate with confidence (high margins and low uncertainties) beyond the limited range of tested designs to ensure the performance, safety, and security of the U.S. stockpile.

Over the years, refinements to the SSP have been made and many of the data and models have been developed and implemented. However, the fundamental concept and the need for a science-based approach to certify the U.S. nuclear stockpile has remained the same. The technical approach developed for SSP has also proven useful for other security programs, especially where capabilities are needed to deal with emerging threats and technological surprises (DOE/NNSA 2011; Gordon 2002).

In the early years, the focus of nuclear and radiochemists supporting the Nuclear Test Program was to collect and analyze device postshot debris and to measure key nuclear data needed to interpret what was found in the debris. More recently, in the absence of testing, “radchem” efforts at the nuclear weapons design laboratories that support the SSP have evolved. The emphasis has shifted to the reinterpretation of data from old nuclear tests with the goal of meeting the needs of weapons designers who are working toward increased accuracy and a defensible uncertainty analysis. In addition, the development of new diagnostic tools and methods has focused on the ability to utilize data collected, but not used, during the Nuclear Test Program. Since 1992, “radchem” efforts have not significantly involved the utilization of nuclear and radiochemistry laboratory capabilities that were prominently used before the end of testing; however, in the last few years

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

interest has emerged in developing new diagnostics based on radionuclides still present in archived debris samples.

In addition to measuring radioisotopes produced in nuclear tests, nuclear and radiochemists have a long-standing expertise in measuring and evaluating the fundamental nuclear information necessary to interpret the debris measurements. Most familiar to the SSP are the nuclear reaction cross-section sets necessary for determining performance of nuclear weapons; recently, the uncertainties associated with the fission-chain yields, which are necessary for the interpretation of fission product concentrations, as a number of fissions have received a lot of attention. The measurement of fission chain yields is a classical radiochemical problem and any current discrepancy among datasets can best be resolved with experimental measurements. Two important uncertainties in radiochemical device diagnostics are 1) the destruction and creation of radionuclides from a device, and 2) the degree to which physical properties (for example, volatility) change the distribution of radionuclides in post-shot debris. Reducing and quantifying these uncertainties requires, among other things, high quality nuclear data. In particular, precise cross-section data on neutron induced reactions such as (n,γ), (n,2n), and (n,f) on materials and the production and destruction of the prompt (precursor) fission products are needed to validate physics models and reduce uncertainties in predicted device performance. To address the uncertainties associated with chemical volatility mentioned above, a multi-disciplinary approach is required that includes, theory, experiment, and simulation. Nuclear and radiochemistry are the key players in developing this understanding.

Determining device performance is a very challenging and complex problem for the SSP. Since an underground nuclear test represents an integral test of a very complicated device, to infer performance from the interpretation of reaction products requires making some simplifying assumptions. Understanding the impact and sensitivities of these assumptions is at the core of QMU for nuclear weapons certification and is essential for assessing margins and uncertainties in device performance. For the SSP, radiochemical data are the benchmarks against which the physics models in the large-scale simulations are validated; in addition, the data interpretations by nuclear and radiochemists form the basis for certification of the U.S. nuclear stockpile in the absence of nuclear testing.

Chemists and radiochemists are also integral to the characterization of materials, providing analytical data necessary for comparative certification of the performance of components in the stockpile. An essential requirement for certifying devices currently in the stockpile is to do a comparison of the material’s

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

properties—such as composition, strength, and hardness—against the properties of material that was tested with a device. Much of this effort is focused on the nuclear material, but it is also necessary to understand the long-term behavior of non-nuclear materials, including possible changes in material properties resulting from long term exposure to radiation due to radioactive decay.

Workforce Considerations

To accomplish work related to SSP at the weapons design laboratories requires a technical staff with not only the knowledge and expertise to handle, purify, and quantify radioactive materials, but also with knowledge and expertise to analyze and interpret nuclear and radiochemical data and understand its meaning in the appropriate context (broad–based system analysis approach). Furthermore, there is a significant constraint for persons holding these positions at the weapons design laboratory—they must be U.S. citizens and be able to obtain appropriate security clearances.

During the Nuclear Test Program, adequate funding for nuclear and radiochemists was available to execute a demanding programmatic mission (providing diagnostic support for a steady stream of tests) and to maintain a robust discipline in terms of support for fundamental research activities. The support for fundamental research activities at the design laboratories ensured that there was an invigorated staff working at the forefront of nuclear science and that state-of-the art science was being brought to bear on the programmatic mission. Having a robust fundamental research program also allowed the design laboratories to compete for the “best and the brightest” students in the field and to recruit new staff that would become the next generation of nuclear stewards. After the end of the Nuclear Test Program in the early 1990s, the programmatic mission was scaled back considerably, and so too was the support of fundamental research for the discipline of nuclear and radiochemistry. As a result, staff with these skills migrated to other areas such as non-proliferation, environmental, and material science and the workforce supporting SSP declined substantially. NNSA reports that the size of its nuclear and radiochemistry workforce in the current program (approximately 20 individuals) is significantly smaller than it was prior to the end of testing in 1992 (Pruet and Rahn 2011). In this transition, a large number of highly skilled personnel also retired. Without a means of routinely exercising the skill base developed to support the SSP, many of these retirements occurred without passing a significant part of this specialized knowledge base along to the remaining workforce.

With an increase in programmatic and technical requirements associ-

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

ated with SSP, additional demands from other national security missions (see below) as well as the potential for new nuclear science programs such as those at the National Ignition Facility at LLNL, there is now an expectation that the size of this workforce may need to increase. Realizing this potential need, NNSA has commissioned the development of a technical “roadmap” from the weapons laboratories that is designed to assess and determine the stewardship needs and priorities for the nuclear and radiochemistry workforce over the next 20 years (Pruet and Rahn 2011). While the results of this effort and its associated program plan are not yet available, it is possible to present some bounding assumptions regarding future directions in the program and the demands these assumptions are likely to place on the future workforce.

Bounding Scenarios and Assumptions

Scenario 1: Status Quo

Nuclear weapons will continue to exist and the United States will maintain the ability to certify the performance of its nuclear stockpile as a strategic deterrent in the absence of nuclear testing. Under this scenario, reductions in size of the stockpile (and the need to extend the lifetime of existing systems) will continue to drive reinterpretation of historic radiochemical data for assessing margins and uncertainties to improve our scientific understanding of device performance. Aging and remanufacture of components will also require an improvement to the scientific underpinnings of stockpile stewardship.

•  Certification of the stockpile without underground testing requires:

image  Improved physics models in simulation codes that are validated against high quality fundamental nuclear experimental data—such as neutron fission—and capture cross sections (probabilities), independent and cumulative fission yields (that is, “chain yields”), and decay properties.

image  Trained staff with the expertise to make the measurements described in the bullet above on a wide array of state-of-the-art experimental facilities, from particle accelerators and reactors to z-pinch and laser facilities—classical nuclear science experiments carried out with modern instrumentation in regimes made possible by state-of-the-art experimental facilities.

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

image  Staff with appropriate training, knowledge base, and experience working with and analyzing nuclear test data who are able to:

image Provide credible and defensible uncertainty analyses of old test data as new and more accurate fundamental nuclear data becomes available—that is, can we answer old questions better today?

image  Mine existing device debris and archived data for additional information not possible at the time of the test—that is, do we know something different today?

image  Handle, purify, and quantify radioactive and stable materials (perform chemical and isotopic analysis) from archived device debris samples.

image  A better understanding of the chemistry of the actinide elements and key fission products, detectors, and tracers in underground nuclear tests.

image  Sustained capability to characterize nuclear materials through:

image  Analytical chemistry, or

image  Development of new analytical methods (for example, new methods that reduce waste volumes).

image  Knowledge of the effects of radiolysis on materials.

Given the challenges inherent in these missions, the required size of the laboratory workforce in nuclear and radiochemistry is likely to remain stable or increase somewhat, exploiting opportunities in both improving physical models and evaluating historical data. At a minimum, hiring is expected to keep up with attrition. However as time passes, the workforce to support the nuclear weapons mission will degrade if a means of routinely exercising the skill base developed to support the SSP is not supported, In any case, there is not likely to be a large change in the size of the workforce in either direction.

Scenario 2: Major Modification to the U.S. Nuclear Stockpile Is Required

This represents a growth scenario with a higher demand for nuclear and radiochemists compared to Scenario 1 (status quo). The modification may or may not imply an increase in the size of the stockpile. In either case, it is assumed that no testing of any modified weapon would be possible. This scenario also assumes there may be a need for additional production of fissile materials above that declared or additional chemical purification of existing material.2

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2 If material production is required other supporting activities may be needed associated such as isotope enrichment, reactor production, material purification including hot cell separations,

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

•  All of the requirements for status quo would be needed (theory, modeling, and large-scale simulations would be central; high quality experimental validation and fundamental nuclear data would be critical to success; and the ability to interpret radiochemical data to infer device performance would be paramount).

•  If the size of the stockpile increases under this scenario, the speed required to get there will determine how much of an increase in the infrastructure and personnel will be required.

•  There may be a requirement for separations chemists and facilities to chemically process nuclear material.

Under this scenario, an increase in the number of nuclear and radiochemists will be needed both to replace retiring staff and to supplement the current workforce. This scenario could include activities beyond continued development of the methodology for certification such as those needed to support production. The rate of adding new staff would depend in a complex way on the scope, schedule, and budget available to complete the work.

Scenario 3: Nuclear Weapon States Decide Multi-laterally to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons Entirely

Although this scenario could be regarded as one extreme associated with the future of the weapons program, this discussion of the ramifications more naturally falls within the area of nonproliferation and arms control and will be discussed further below.

Nonproliferation and Arms Control Programs

Technical Needs

Scientists involved with the Manhattan Project were among the first to recognize and express concern early in the development of nuclear weapons about the potential for proliferation of nuclear technology and nuclear materials. Likewise, when splitting the atom began to be exploited for commercial power production, similar concerns were raised.

The failure to control the spread of nuclear technology via post-war political efforts ultimately resulted in the need to develop technical approaches to safeguard materials and facilities. At the end of World War II, under the “Baruch Plan,” the United States proposed to destroy existing

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and manufacturing capabilities. These activities would have a major impact and demand on the workforce across the entire Weapons Complex.

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

weapons if other countries would agree both to refrain from developing nuclear weapons and to permit inspections to verify their compliance with that agreement. Further, under this plan, the development of weapons and nuclear energy would have been under the purview and control of the United Nations Security Council. However, the Soviet Union objected and opted to conduct its own weapons development effort.

In 1953, President Eisenhower proposed to the United Nations General Assembly that an organization be established to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to ensure that nuclear energy would not serve any military purposes. This resulted in the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1957. As countries including the United States, the Soviet Union, and France began to assist other countries with reactors and training, new discussions emerged regarding the need to control the spread of nuclear technology for military uses. Debate about “nonproliferation” in the United Nations General Assembly resulted in a resolution in 1961 stipulating that countries that already have nuclear weapons would not spread, or proliferate the associated technology and that countries without nuclear weapons would refrain from efforts to develop them. This resolution served as the basis for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that was signed in 1968 and extended indefinitely in 1995.

Concurrent with the development of the NPT and a framework to address proliferation risks, a series of arms control treaties were negotiated, which created the need for science-based verification capabilities. Generally, these fall into the categories of limitations on nuclear testing (the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963, Threshold Test Ban Treaty of 1974, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty of 1996) and arms limitation and reduction agreements (for example, 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty I, 1979 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty II, 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and 1993 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty II).

Both nonproliferation and arms control place technical requirements on the national security community that utilize the expertise of nuclear and radiochemists. The verification of treaties that limit nuclear testing often employs a variety of means to detect the detonation of explosive devices. If possible, it is very desirable to collect and examine debris to verify if an event detected was nuclear in origin. Such a determination is made through the identification of fission products and residual fissile material deemed to be the “signature” of a nuclear event. The techniques used to collect and analyze the debris are basically the same as the methods developed during the U.S atmospheric test program. The use of radiochemical methods to analyze debris collected from suspected nuclear events requires knowledge of fundamental nuclear data such as fission chain yields and radionuclide

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

decay data and an understanding of the physical and chemical behavior of the components in the debris (for example, relative volatilities). This information is essential for addressing questions and explaining any observed inconsistencies in the radiochemical data from the collected debris. Although there can be differences in the detection of an event on foreign soil vs. a test in the United States (for example, the timescale of collecting samples and the types of specific information being sought), the same type of expertise is required for treaty verification as for the “radchem” work associated with the weapons program.

The technical approach for verifying compliance with nonproliferation and arms control agreements also draws upon a comparable base of nuclear and radiochemistry expertise. There are a number of objectives associated with safeguards and the inspection of known or suspected facilities. Some of these rely on simple measures of physical security, such as restricting site or facility access, or the use of seals, cameras, and other instruments to detect unreported movement of or tampering with materials. These physical inspections are complemented by extensive analyses and technical evaluations of the information gathered. Material accountability requirements invoke the need for systems to track all movement of nuclear materials into, out of, and within any nuclear facility. This can include accountability verification by sampling and analysis of nuclear materials where samples of nuclear (fissile) materials are taken at key measurement points of the process and subjected to destructive chemical and isotopic analysis. In other cases, the purpose of an inspection is to search for evidence of undeclared activity at a facility. In this case, samples from process streams (or swipe samples taken throughout a facility) can be analyzed by radiochemical methods to confirm or refute declarations regarding the explicit use of equipment or facilities (IAEA 2011).

Political developments in the area of nonproliferation and arms control impact the technical demands of these monitoring requirements. For example, “the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty Organization (CTBTO) was set up in 1996” and “tasked with building up the verification regime of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT) in preparation for the Treaty’s entry into force” (CTBTO 2011). Among the elements of the verification regime is the International Monitoring System, a network of 321 radionuclide monitoring stations and 16 laboratories worldwide that were established to detect radioactive debris from atmospheric explosions or that escape from vented underground or underwater nuclear explosions. Analytical laboratories augment the monitoring stations to confirm findings and provide more precise radiochemical and isotopic data. Another element of the verification regime is the ability to conduct on-site inspections that are triggered by suspect or atypical events.

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

On-site inspections may include radionuclide sampling and analysis with a broader goal of distinguishing the source of the detected radionuclides (for example, a nuclear explosion from a natural source vs. reactors that are man-made) and a date the event occurred. The methodology employed in this case may differ from that associated with radionuclide monitoring stations and require additional expertise in areas such as sampling and the environmental behavior of radionuclides.

There is similar interest in expanding the methods employed in nuclear safeguards, stimulated by the adoption of the “Additional Protocol by the IAEA in 1997. Among other ramifications, the Additional Protocol gives IAEA the right to use environmental sampling during inspections at both declared and undeclared sites. It also allows for environmental sampling to be conducted over a wide area, not just at specific facilities” (ACA 2006). This introduces enhanced requirements for additional environmental sampling and radionuclide measurements associated with verification of the NPT, which in turn leads to in an increased need for nuclear and radiochemistry expertise. In addition to drawing upon technical knowledge of fission processes and radionuclide measurement systems, further expertise is required to understand radionuclide behavior and transport in the environment.

Workforce Considerations

A wide array of technical disciplines have been catalogued as contributing to the execution of programs in arms control and nonproliferation and to research efforts focused on improving methods in these fields (Lockwood et al. 2010). Nuclear and radiochemists contribute substantially to our ability to conduct destructive and non-destructive analyses on relevant samples.

Concerns have been raised in the United States and internationally regarding the future availability of an experienced workforce to contribute to these programs. In 2005, a Government Accountability Office report (GAO 2005) raised serious concern of a “looming human capital crisis,” indicating that a significant percentage of international safeguards experts were close to retirement, and that there was an inadequate supply of workers being developed to address this gap. A recent study conducted by the Oak Ridge Institute for Scientific Education (ORISE) provided an assessment of the age distribution and estimated attrition over the next 15 years of the scientists and engineers working in the international safeguards area at nine DOE laboratories (chemists comprised 14 percent of this group). The study identified 250 international safeguards specialists who worked on Next Generation Safeguards Initiative-sponsored projects in FY 2009, and found that 41 percent of the workforce specializing in this area were 55 years of

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

age or older and less than 20 percent of these same specialists were 44 years of age or younger (Lockwood et al. 2010.

The future demand for nuclear and radiochemists is likely to be impacted by the implementation of new arms control and nonproliferation treaties as well as by the verification requirements negotiated to supporting treaties. Several scenarios can be considered that bound the workforce requirements in this important area.

Bounding Scenarios and Assumptions

Scenario 1: Status Quo

In this scenario, current technical contributions to verification regimes are assumed to be maintained. Technical support is provided to the cooperative safeguards program and to international treaty monitoring efforts, but additional monitoring plans are not supported to any appreciable extent. The demographics of the current workforce make it difficult to train a new workforce for technical support in verification missions. This workforce is aging (as described above), heavily utilized, and lacks formal training in either higher education or vocational programs (i.e., the majority of current international safeguards specialists have not had any formal training).

•  The need for a trained workforce is maintained at current levels with nuclear and radiochemists supporting the implementation of systems for environmental monitoring of radionuclides for treaty verification. There will be a higher rate of turnover of these workers, consistent with the need to replace skilled workers retiring, and more effort will be expended to provide on-the-job training for workers, where possible. Work will require:

image  Understanding fission processes and having a trained staff with the expertise to make a spectrum of radionuclide measurements in a variety of matrices.

image  Collaboration with geochemists on the maturation and validation of dispersion models to predict the fate of radionuclides in the environment (including underground and atmospheric) to localize source terms.

image  Development of advanced measurement systems to improve sensitivity of detection.

image  Nuclear and radiochemists who can continue to provide support for nuclear safeguards measurements and contribute significantly to advances in methodologies that make measurements

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

    more efficient, technologies that improve sensitivity, and the development of more field-deployable technologies. Similarly, there will be a higher replacement rate in the workforce to maintain stable staffing levels, since many current workers are nearing retirement.

image Staff trained to measure actinide elements in safeguard samples, including low-level and trace measurements and isotopic analysis.

On the basis of the importance and priority given to safeguarding nuclear materials and facilities, it is likely that the number of trained nuclear and radiochemists that will be needed under this scenario will at least remain stable or grow slightly.

Scenario 2: Implementation of Additional Verification Regimes

Successful negotiation followed by ratification of additional treaties raises the possibility of additional verification technology requirements. This will include increased demands for onsite inspections that will drive new sampling and measurement requirements. Implementation of other verification methods associated with the IAEA Additional Protocol discussed earlier will necessitate an increase in the rate of processing radiochemical samples by supporting laboratories.

•  Nuclear and radiochemists, in addition to providing the operational capability for destructive and non-destructive analysis of radionuclides (comparable to the technical requirements associated with scenario 1), are tasked with new demands for the development of increasingly sensitive and more precise and robust measurement systems for environmental measurements, particularly for the case of detecting and identifying undeclared facilities. This will require coupling knowledge of radionuclide behavior in the environment with novel systems for pre-concentration and separation or new methods for the simultaneous measurement of multiple component mixtures with or without minimal chemical separation process steps.

•  Under conditions required for environmental monitoring, technical opportunities will exist to develop new sample collection methods. There will be significant challenges to address regarding the interpretation of analytical data from complex environmental matrices (including distinguishing signatures from environmental backgrounds).

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

•  Opportunities may exist for novel approaches to safeguards measurements, extending capabilities beyond tracking the movement of materials to understanding actinide and radiochemistry (and associated nuclear materials processes); this understanding can suggest additional ways to monitor process facilities for attempted diversion.

•  Opportunities also exist for knowledgeable personnel to look at facilities that are producing fissile material to make sure the material is not being diverted.

This scenario represents growth in both treaty monitoring and nuclear safeguards and is an issue for the United States and the international community. It is likely that, in addition to the issue of replacing staff at a rate commensurate with expected retirements, the number of trained nuclear and radiochemists that will be required to meet the new demands will likely increase. There will also be a need for nuclear and radiochemists with a broader range of technical capabilities to address new measurement needs.

Scenario 3: Nuclear Weapon States Decide Multi-laterally to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons Entirely

Any proposed drawdown in the number of nuclear weapons will entail discussions regarding the need for a responsive infrastructure. This will include knowledgeable personnel who are able to handle any technological surprises. It also includes the necessary infrastructure, including laboratories, equipment, and instrumentation.

•  If nuclear weapons are abolished by the nuclear weapon states, it will take some time for dismantlement of the weapons and destruction of components and fissile material. Dismantlement and fissile material control, accountability, and final disposition will require a capable workforce and infrastructure.

•  Global enforcement of “zero nuclear weapons” will require an organization (much like IAEA today) that is staffed with technical experts who are responsible for:

image  Inspections of declared facilities.

image  Inspections of potential new facilities.

image  Safeguarding materials for legitimate non-nuclear weapon purposes, such as:

image  Nuclear reactors for energy, research, and for the production of medical isotopes;

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

image  Any declared “excess” material that still exists from the nuclear weapons states; and

image  Potential military applications, such as reactor-powered naval vessels.

image  The United States would likely supply some of the workforce for such an organization as part of a “trust but verify” strategy.

Counterterrorism and Homeland Security

Technical Needs

The threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism has been recognized since the dawn of the nuclear age, but until the end of the cold war, was eclipsed by the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The need to address counterterrorism and homeland security generally emerged after the break-up of the Soviet Union when the incidence of nuclear smuggling began to rise; for example, the early to mid-1990s saw several widely publicized nuclear smuggling incidents occur in Europe. In December 1994, 2.7 kilograms of highly enriched uranium was seized in the back of a car in Prague, Czech Republic. This incident was widely reported in the press (e.g. Atkinson 1994, Gordon 1994) and drew attention to other seizures of weapons-useable nuclear material that had occurred in Germany, Russia, and Lithuania.

The seizures of illicitly trafficked nuclear materials in Prague and elsewhere created both public and government awareness of a growing problem. It was recognized by scientists that the technical analysis of nuclear and other radiological materials could produce information that would aid the investigation of nuclear smuggling incidents.3 Nuclear forensic analysis of seized materials could, in principle, give clues about the origin of the materials (for example, how and when the materials were made and their intended purpose) that could assist in the identification of whose materials had been seized. Hence, the field of nuclear forensics was born.4 In the

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3 The term “radiological materials” is often used in the United States when describing or referring to radioactive materials. This term has appeared in many U.S. documents. The IAEA has promoted the use of the term “other radioactive materials” as the internationally accepted term for radiological materials.

4 “Nuclear forensics is the collection, analysis and evaluation of radiological and nuclear material. It can be applied to material in a pre-detonation state, or to post-detonation radiological or nuclear materials, devices and debris; it also draws on information derived from the immediate effects created by a nuclear detonation. Nuclear forensics conclusions, fused with law enforcement and intelligence information, may support nuclear attribution—the identification of those responsible for planned and actual attacks” (Moody et al. 2005).

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
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United States, the early efforts in the mid-1990s were funded mainly by DOE, with support from the Department of Justice. Nuclear forensics was viewed as primarily supporting law enforcement investigations.

In 1995, the International Technical Working Group on Nuclear Smuggling (often referred to as simply the ITWG) was created. The ITWG (since renamed the Nuclear Forensics International Technical Working Group) provides a forum where scientists, law enforcement personnel, and policy makers can discuss and explore issues surrounding the development, use, and implementation of nuclear forensic capabilities for responding to the illicit trafficking of nuclear materials and the threat of nuclear terrorism.

In 2004, the ITWG issued a document that describes the use of nuclear forensic analysis in response to incidents involving the seizure of illicit nuclear and radiological materials (Kristo et al. 2004). Subsequently, the IAEA used the ITWG report to form the basis of the report Nuclear Forensics Support, which was formally published by the IAEA (IAEA 2006). These documents describe the need for personnel trained in a number of technical fields, including the need for nuclear and radiochemists to support nuclear forensic investigations of seized nuclear and radiological materials.

In 2000, the Defense Science Board (DSB), which advises the Office of the Secretary of Defense within DOD, conducted a summer study that examined, among other issues, unconventional nuclear threats to the United States (DSB 2001). Such threats included the terrorist use of nuclear weapons (whether stolen or improvised) against the United States. The 2000 Defense Science Board study lead to a major research and development effort, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA 2011), to improve nuclear forensic capabilities, which are viewed as a vital component for developing a response to a nuclear event.

The events of September 11, 2001, elevated the issue of terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction (including nuclear weapons and radiological materials) to the forefront of U.S. government thought. Since 2001, the U.S. effort to develop and utilize nuclear forensics has evolved into the National Technical Nuclear Forensics (NTNF) capability. The basis for NTNF stems from both presidential directive and legislation and is an interagency effort that includes the Departments of Justice/Federal Bureau of Investigation,5 DOD, DOE, Department of State, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Department of Homeland Security. Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security has created the National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center (NTNFC), which has, among other roles, the responsibility

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5 The FBI is the lead federal agency responsible for the criminal investigation of terrorist events and the nuclear forensic investigation of a planned or actual attack.

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
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to coordinate NTNF efforts among the U.S. government departments and agencies. The NTNFC was codified by legislation in 2010 (Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act 2010).

The significance of the NTNF program is that it utilizes nuclear and radiochemistry as primary tools. The need for a well-trained workforce is fundamental to NTNF and the development, maintenance, and growth of such a workforce has been an important issue.

Workforce Considerations

The nuclear and radiochemistry aspects of counterterrorism and homeland security are essentially encompassed by nuclear forensic analysis, which represents the major “tool” with relevance to this programmatic area. In turn, the basis for performing nuclear forensic analysis drives a more fundamental need for nuclear data (for example, better cross sections and more accurate independent and cumulative fission yields) and the need for an array of reference materials that contain various nuclear and radiological materials. Within counterterrorism and homeland security, although areas that involve the detection of radioactive and nuclear materials (such as the Radiation Portal Monitoring Program and Second Line of Defense) depend more on nuclear and radiation detection and related disciplines, nuclear and radiochemists can also make contributions to needs in these areas.

Nuclear forensics analysis includes a wide array of technical disciplines that contribute both to the operational programs and to research and development into improving analytical methods, instrumentation, and data evaluation techniques (IAEA 2006). Nevertheless, nuclear and radiochemistry methods constitute a substantial part of the overall nuclear forensic analysis capability.

Concerns have been raised in the United States regarding the future availability of an experienced workforce to support nuclear forensics. Several recent reports [APS/AAAS 2008; GAO 2009; NRC 2010] have highlighted concerns about the extent of the workforce, the prospect that many in the field will be retiring in the next 10 years, and the growing awareness that there is an inadequate supply of workers being developed to address future needs. Workforce studies that focus on nuclear forensics (Wong 2011) mirror the results of studies done on other areas related to nuclear security (as described above).

As in other areas of nuclear security, the specific demand for nuclear and radiochemists within the future workforce for nuclear forensics will depend upon how the U.S. government continues to fund the various programs that directly support and impact the field. Counterterrorism and homeland secu-

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
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rity—which, for this report, primarily focus on nuclear forensics—provides a different situation than the other areas of nuclear security in that it is mainly threat-based. The NTNF program is being built to address high impact, low probability events. In the absence of actual events, the workload in NTNF consists of a combination of exercises, analysis of practice samples, instrument calibrations, and work derived from research and development to improve existing methods and develop new ones. The actual casework is limited, at best. Thus, nuclear forensics is driven by the need to be ready to respond to an event as opposed to having a routine workload. By comparison, the other nuclear security areas (for example, nuclear weapons and non-proliferation and arms control) deal with a more predictable workload (either for production and certification of weapons or for monitoring and verification of treaties and international agreements). For this reason, it is necessary to discuss workforce requirements in the context of building what amounts to an insurance policy.

Bounding Scenarios and Assumptions

Scenario 1: Status Quo

In this scenario, current technical capabilities that support counterterrorism and homeland security missions are maintained by leveraging existing assets, both human capital and infrastructure such as laboratories and radiochemical counting facilities, that were developed to support the nuclear weapons and nonproliferation and arms control program areas. This scenario represents a gradual decline in the required skill and knowledge base over time since new staff that will replace retiring staff will lack hands-on training and experience. Additionally, conflicts between the “day job” provided by the leveraged programs and the need for staff to remain current in nuclear forensic analysis will result in a less than robust and experienced workforce as the majority of staff that constitutes the nuclear forensic workforce will spend only a small fraction of their time actually doing nuclear forensics (Wong 2011).

The U.S. nuclear forensics capability will need a trained workforce that is maintained at current levels, with nuclear and radiochemists supporting the nuclear forensic analysis of samples. There will be a higher rate of turnover of these workers, consistent with the need to replace skilled workers retiring, and more effort will be expended, where possible, to provide on-the-job training for workers.

Nuclear forensic analysis involves the interpretation of a complex body of data and will require understanding and integrating:

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
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•  Production and utilization of nuclear materials,

•  Production of radioactive isotopes by a variety of methods (reactor and accelerator-based irradiations),

•  Fission processes and the associated production of fission products (both radioactive and non-radioactive),

•  Techniques to measure a vast spectrum of radionuclides in a variety of matrices,

•  Advanced measurement systems to improve the sensitivity of detection and the characterization of nuclear and radiological materials, and

•  Pre- and post-detonation signatures.

It is likely that the number of trained nuclear and radiochemists employed under this scenario will at least remain stable, given the priority for maintaining a capability to respond to nuclear and radiological incidents.

Scenario 2: Development of a Stand-alone Program

In this scenario, the U.S. nuclear forensics capability would be funded at a level that reduces the need to leverage other programs. Under this scenario, an increase in the number of nuclear and radiochemists would be needed to both replace retiring staff and to supplement the current workforce. This workforce would also spend an increasingly larger fraction of their time supporting nuclear forensics, with a balance made between performing routine work (for example, analyzing samples) and conducting research and development activities supporting the nuclear forensics capability

FUTURE DIRECTIONS

Unlike many of the sectors discussed in this report, technical efforts in national security are by nature more restricted to the national laboratory workforce, due to the requirements for protection of classified information. There is no significant industrial sector outside of the national laboratories, and academic research relevant to national security programs are addressed in Chapter 2 and 3. The national laboratory workforce in this area performs work that spans the fields of weapons research, nonproliferation, and counterterrorism/homeland security. For this reason, the committee chose to address workforce demands for the entire workforce.

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
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Workforce Demand and Attrition

In all the scenarios discussed above, there will be at least a sustained need to maintain the current workforce with nuclear and radiochemistry expertise. The national security stakeholders responsible for the major historic investment in this capability—the nuclear weapons program—can no longer support the magnitude and depth of the capability that was available in the testing era. However, the nuclear weapons program continues to drive the need for fundamental nuclear data. Over the years, other missions have benefitted significantly from past research and infrastructure investments provided by the nuclear weapons program. These other missions now represent a growing fraction of the market demand for nuclear and radiochemistry expertise in the national security arena. Most of the scenarios require an increased workforce. In addition to technologies for test and production monitoring as outlined above, a larger workforce may be needed to satisfy new requirements for verification of dismantlement of weapons and production and support facilities (APS 2010).

In the situations where the federal government supports most of the technical efforts carried out by nuclear and radiochemists, the number of staff is subject to annual budget cycles, making it difficult to project precise numbers for the size of the workforce. Another factor influencing the number of trained nuclear and radiochemists available to fill these government supported jobs is the attrition in the current workforce that is likely to occur over the next 10-20 years. Due to the classified aspects of much of the work in this area, the major employers are government laboratories (most associated with the DOE or DOD), although commercial laboratories have an important role, particularly in nuclear and radiochemistry for environmental sampling (for example, those associated with consequence management or public health programs). It is also worth noting that unique requirements exist for this workforce, such as the requirement of U.S. citizenship for those positions requiring security clearances. A large number of recent studies have highlighted concerns regarding the age demographics associated with the overall national security workforce (APS 2008, 2010; DSB 2008; Graham et al. 2008; Stimson 2009). Most cite, with concern, that nearly half of the workforce associated with the nuclear security enterprise (across all programs) is over 50.

The most quantitative treatment of the overall nuclear workforce was discussed in a report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Nuclear Deterrence Skill (DSB 2008). This study noted aging in both the DOE and DOD civilian workforce, based on a survey of nearly 20,000 workers. The Task Force found that in 2007, 40 percent of DOE laboratory “essential work-

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
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ers” were over 50 and that more than 45 percent of DOE weapons plant workers were older than 50. The demographics associated with the DOD civilian workforce were comparable; 57 percent of DTRA “essential nuclear employees” were over 50, while 46 percent of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Program essential employees were in this age range. Although this study did not explicitly look at programs in global security, this demographic has been echoed in reports that outline concerns associated with work in the fields of nonproliferation (Lockwood et al. 2010) and homeland security (NRC 2010).

In order to evaluate whether this demographic is applicable to nuclear chemistry and radiochemistry related fields, the committee obtained workforce data from the DOE national laboratories (See Chapter 2 and Appendix F), including those that have the most significant national security efforts requiring nuclear and radiochemistry. Available data suggests that the average age of the affected population (those in positions requiring nuclear or radiochemistry expertise) is close to 50 (average ages by lab range from 47 to 49). The percentage of employees with nuclear and radiochemistry skills who are 55 years of age or older range from 16-30 percent. In addition, previous reports have indicated that the workforce is not only aging, but in many cases expertise is limited to a single person (APS/AAAS 2008; and NRC 2010).

Corroborating data is found in more program-specific surveys. For example, the National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center within the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office has conducted a laboratory survey of the demographics of laboratory workers working in nuclear forensics and related programs. Of the individuals identified as being involved in nuclear forensics at eight national laboratories (not all of whom are designated as having expertise in nuclear and radiochemistry), 27.5 percent were 55 years of age or older (Wong 2011); the average age for various technical specialty areas ranged from 46 to 51.

These data suggest that the fields of nuclear and radiochemistry are demographically comparable to the general population in the nuclear security-related workforce and, as such, a significant number of retirements are expected over the next 5-10 years. Even if programs do not anticipate any growth in the need for these workers (and some scenarios do suggest no additional growth), a supply of expertise will be required to replace those lost to attrition.

Availability

The next question is whether the available supply of trained technical personnel will keep pace with the growing demand in the national secu-

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
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rity sector. Technical staff working in national security programs serve in a range of employment categories and require different degree levels. Staff scientists most commonly possess Ph.D.s; other staff categories require A.A.S., B.S., M.S., or other advanced degrees. The 2008 Defense Science Board study suggests that within the general area of nuclear deterrence skills, the armed services do not employ a preponderance of Ph.D.s (DSB, 2008); in contrast, DOE national laboratories have a larger percentage of Ph.D.-level employees. In the data collected from national laboratories for this study, most reporting laboratories cite 40-60 percent of positions requiring nuclear and radiochemistry expertise are at the Ph.D. level (see Figure 2-5). For purposes of this analysis, the focus was on the supply and demand of Ph.D.-level scientists, given that data is available on the production of relevant doctoral degrees. The workforce associated with other staff categories is likely to arise from the much broader cohort of chemistry or physics majors, with additional training being provided on the job; supply in these positions may not be the issue, but rather the adequacy of inclusion of nuclear and radiochemistry in undergraduate curriculum or the adequacy of the on-the-job training.

Unlike most of the employment sectors requiring nuclear and radiochemistry expertise, the special constraint of needing U.S. citizenship exists for national security programs. This significantly restricts the pool of available candidates; according to the National Science Board (NSB 2008; Finn 2010), non-U.S. citizens make up about 40 percent of the supply of scientists and engineers with doctorates. As discussed in Chapter 2 (see page 21), in chemistry as a whole, the percent of Ph.D. degrees awarded to U.S. citizens is about 50 percent,6 while in nuclear chemistry about 70-80 percent of Ph.D. degrees have been awarded to U.S. citizens. A survey conducted in association with a study by the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee (NSAC) Subcommittee on Education indicated that, of graduate students in nuclear science surveyed at that time, 60 percent were U.S. citizens (NSAC 2004). However, the overall numbers of Ph.D. degrees in nuclear science are much smaller than science and engineering as a whole. Given this small pool of U.S. citizens, the fraction of the Ph.D.s available for national security work is quite fragile.

The concern over the pipeline of qualified personnel has not gone without notice. A number of the federal sponsors associated with national security work have recognized the issue and have instituted programs designed

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6 National Science Foundation, WebCASPAR database [online] Year: All values; Citizenship (survey-specific): All values; Academic Discipline, Detailed (standardized): Chemistry; Number of Doctorate Recipients by Doctorate Institution (Sum); Citizenship (survey-specific).See https://webcaspar.nsf.gov/ (accessed November 1, 2011).

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
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to develop their future workforce. In September 2007, DOE announced the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative, a program to revitalize the U.S. capacity to support IAEA safeguards. One of the elements of this effort is the Human Capital Development Program, the intent of which is to revitalize and expand the international safeguards human capital base by attracting and training a new generation of U.S. talent (Lockwood et al. 2010). Also, as previously mentioned, the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) instituted the National Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development Program, which was codified by legislation in 2010 (Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act [2010]). This program received interagency support and includes secondary and undergraduate outreach, undergraduate and graduate student internships, graduate and post-graduate fellowships, university awards, and enhanced multi-year research and development funding and is discussed in more detail in Chapter 9 (Kentis and Ulicny 2009). These efforts are relatively young, so it is not yet possible to judge their efficacy in addressing the issue of workforce supply.

FINDINGS

Nuclear chemistry remains an essential capability for National Security. Nuclear and radiochemistry are disciplines that are increasing in importance within national security-related mission areas, judging from the spectrum of agencies funding this study and the interest expressed in presentations (Pruet and Rahn 2011; Wong 2011) on planning for the health of the disciplines. Developments in these science areas have been historically driven substantially by the nuclear weapons program. Although the scale and nature of its needs have evolved (from development of diagnostics for nuclear tests to a broader range of science improving our understanding of nuclear, physical, and chemical processes in weapons performance), nuclear and radiochemistry remains an essential capability for the weapons program, albeit one that currently supports a smaller core of practitioners than in the past. Some programs in national security, such as treaty monitoring, have utilized this weapons expertise for decades. Others, such as homeland security, are just emerging as efforts requiring these science areas. The committee judges that these two trends—reduced level of stewardship from the weapons program combined with increasing demand by other programs—now result in a situation where the capacity to “leverage” weapons staff will diminish over time. This will result in additional projected staffing needs in most scenarios.

The supply of nuclear and radiochemistry expertise for nuclear security requires training beyond what academia can provide. This has not been

Suggested Citation:"6 National Security." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
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broadly recognized. There is a significant element of specialized development in certain programs that is required for new workers in the field. This comes in the form of on-the-job training, in which new workers (already academically trained) learn specialized applications of nuclear and radiochemistry. Given the lack of opportunity to learn these skills directly (for example, radiochemists cannot work on an active nuclear test program), this knowledge has to be transferred from senior workers. Funded work, however, rarely includes sufficient funding for knowledge transfer activities and the problem is increasing as budgets become more constrained. Unless these knowledge transfer activities are explicitly recognized, encouraged, and given resources, they will not occur; there is a significant risk of loss of critical capabilities.

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The growing use of nuclear medicine, the potential expansion of nuclear power generation, and the urgent needs to protect the nation against external nuclear threats, to maintain our nuclear weapons stockpile, and to manage the nuclear wastes generated in past decades, require a substantial, highly trained, and exceptionally talented workforce. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise examines supply and demand for expertise in nuclear chemistry nuclear science, and radiochemistry in the United States and presents possible approaches for ensuring adequate availability of these skills, including necessary science and technology training platforms.

Considering a range of reasonable scenarios looking to the future, none of these areas are likely to experience a decrease in demand for expertise. However, many in the current workforce are approaching retirement age and the number of students opting for careers in nuclear and radiochemistry has decreased dramatically over the past few decades. In order to avoid a gap in these critical areas, increases in student interest in these careers, in the research and educational capacity of universities and colleges, and sector specific on-the-job training will be needed. Concise recommendations are given for actions to avoid a shortage of nuclear chemistry, nuclear scientists, and radiochemists in the future.

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