Two Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) teams recently received awards from Dr. Arden Dougan, the Program Director for the Safeguards Technology Development Program within the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Office of International Safeguards. The Joule Awards are presented to national laboratories and researchers who help the NNSA reach a metric that is reportable to Congress for transferring at least five technologies each year to international partners, in this case, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Because of the pandemic, Dr. Dougan belatedly presented PNNL with two of the eight FY 2020 Joule Awards.
The IAEA is responsible for deterring the proliferation of nuclear weapons by detecting early the misuse of nuclear material or technology, and by providing credible assurances that states are honoring their safeguards obligations. Many of PNNL’s nuclear safeguards technology projects are geared towards supporting the IAEA’s mission.
One of PNNL’s Joule Awards recognized the transfer of the time domain reflectometry (TDR) system to the IAEA. TDR is a technology that is used to detect tampers or intrusions in cables. PNNL’s developments included 1) specialized electronics that adapted a TDR device to monitor unattended cables for radiation detection instruments, but do not interfere with the gamma or neutron detector signals in the cable, and 2) algorithms to discriminate electronic noise and identify small signals of tampering during TDR analysis. Congratulations to PNNL current and former TDR project members: Eric Smith, Ryan Conrad, Daniel Cain, Brad Isom, Rick Pratt, Norm Anheier, Mital Zalavadia, Jonathan Tedeschi, Gordan Gavric, and Dustin Kasparek.
A second Joule Award recognized the transfer of the Uranium Particle Reference Material to the IAEA. PNNL developed a prototype production set of microparticles from standard materials. These microparticles are for use in quality control and calibration of mass spectrometers for the IAEA’s Network of Analytical Laboratories, which analyze environmental samples taken at nuclear facilities by IAEA inspectors. PNNL has been working on this development for some time, and earned a Joule Award in 2019 for the development of their first test particles.
Congratulations to PNNL current and former Uranium Particle Reference Material project members: Chris Barrett, Tim Pope, Stephan Vogt, Riane Stene, Bruce Arey, Mindy Zimmer, Heather Cunningham, May-Lin Thomas, Eirik Krogstad, Kelly McHugh, and Matt Olszta.