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Students to help thwart global nuclear threats

News Release

June 06, 2005 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — Seventeen graduate students will spend the next year helping the U.S. government prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. The program kicks off this summer as they train for internships in the field of nuclear nonproliferation.

Graduate students from schools across the country arrived this week at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for orientation and technical briefings in the Nonproliferation Graduate Program. PNNL administers the program for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

At PNNL, the interns, who have degrees in subjects such as international affairs, political science or traditional science and engineering, learn about technical innovations that can help reduce the threat of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.

Orientation includes participating in technical briefings on nuclear weapons and physics, observing science and engineering work performed for NNSA and touring the Hanford B Reactor, which produced plutonium for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan in World War II.

Later this month, following comprehensive training at PNNL and in Washington D.C., the students will be deployed to various NNSA program offices in the United States and overseas. They will work with NNSA experts in the agency's Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation gaining practical experience to prepare for careers in national security and nonproliferation.

Interns will assist in the development and implementation of NNSA's global nonproliferation programs and may prepare briefing materials for senior policy advisors, draft policy papers and participate in meetings, conferences and workshops. Interns selected for foreign assignments in Ukraine or Kazakhstan will support NNSA sponsored programs in those countries.

"The training and the practical experience give us a much broader understanding of the challenges facing the nonproliferation community in the post-Cold War era," said Reuben Sorenson, an intern from last year's class who last week completed his assignment in Washington, D.C. Sorenson is a doctoral candidate in nuclear engineering at the University of Michigan.

Since many of the technical and policy experts who fought the Cold War are retired or nearing retirement, the internship program offers the U.S. government a new talent pool from which to grow the next generation of nonproliferation experts.

"We recruit some of best and brightest students who have amazing enthusiasm for careers in nonproliferation," said Susan Senner, who manages the program at PNNL. "This program enables them to receive invaluable hands-on training and career direction for their talent and energy." "We all win in this program."

More information on the program can be found on the Internet at

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for maintaining and enhancing the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; working to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; providing the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responding to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Tags: Energy, National Security, Nuclear Nonproliferation

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