PVAMU nuclear forensics students tour Texas A&M and TEES facilities

April 16, 2015
| By: Kelley Ragusa

Twenty nuclear forensics students and faculty from Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) visited the Texas A&M University campus April 10 as part of the Nuclear Forensics for Minority Serving Institutions program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO). The students are currently enrolled in a nuclear forensic analysis course being taught by PVAMU’s Dr. Irvin Osborne-Lee, Dr. Richard Wilkins and Dr. Brad Gersey.

Dr. Royal Elmore, a research assistant with the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s Nuclear Security Science and Policy Institute (NSSPI) and a guest scientist with Los Alamos National Laboratory, organized the visit.

The students began their tour at the Analytical Chemistry Laboratory in the Department of Chemistry, where doctoral student Aaron Clubb from Dr. Emile Schweikert’s research group introduced them to the lab’s Multi-Collector Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS) system. The presentation covered the theory behind MC-ICP-MS, a comparison of other mass spectrometry tools and the advantages of MC-ICP-MS for nuclear forensics.

The PVAMU students then participated in an informal lunch seminar with Dr. John Kelly from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. Kelly is the deputy assistant secretary of energy for Nuclear Reactor Technologies, and he addressed several policy and technical issues related to nuclear energy and forensics. Specifically, the PVAMU students learned about Generation III, III+ and IV reactors, and nuclear fuel cycles from a proliferation resistance standpoint. Kelly also discussed how nuclear forensics is a later line of protection and deterrence for global nuclear security.

The students then visited the NSSPI Radiation Detection Laboratory with Dr. Craig Marianno, visiting assistant professor with the Department of Nuclear Engineering and research engineer with NSSPI, who explained the nuclear forensics applications of the different radiation detectors. The PVAMU students will be using the detectors in an upcoming hands-on field exercise at the Texas A&M Nuclear Science Center and Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service’s Disaster City® facility.

PVAMU students and Dr. Kelly

(photo: PVAMU students and faculty with Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy Dr. John Kelly)

In May, the PVAMU students will join students from Texas A&M at the 4th Annual Nuclear Facilities Experience, where they will visit the Urenco uranium enrichment plant, Sandia National Laboratories and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, all in New Mexico, and the Pantex nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility in Amarillo, Texas.

The Nuclear Facilities Experience is being conducted by NSSPI through the sponsorship of the Texas A&M College of Engineering and the Department of Nuclear Engineering. The students from PVAMU are being sponsored through the Nuclear Forensics for Minority Serving Institutions.

DNDO established the NF-MSI to strengthen the engineering and science programs at Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) located throughout the U.S. and to enhance the partnerships between these institutions and other U.S. universities with established academic programs in scientific disciplines relevant to nuclear forensics. The objective is to increase the participation of MSIs in the National Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development Program, of which this initiative is a part, and accelerate the involvement of minorities in the U.S. Government nuclear forensics mission.

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