Training offered at the HAMMER center near Richland to keep nuclear materials safe now will have a counterpart across the Pacific Ocean in China.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory officials were expected to accompany Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at a ribbon-cutting Friday for the new nuclear security Center of Excellence in China near Beijing.
“We and several nations, including China, have a keen interest in safeguarding nuclear materials, keeping it out of the hands of rogue actors or terrorists,” said Steven Ashby, PNNL director, before leaving for China this week.
“We have been working very hard internationally to help various nations secure their nuclear radiological sources,” he added.
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At the HAMMER training center, PNNL regularly trains people who go out and train others in how to properly install nuclear security and safeguard material.
China is creating a similar capability.
“They will be able to train people for their domestic sites as well as become a regional training source,” Ashby said.
PNNL will provide leadership for curriculum development and instruction of the instructors.
The first students at the center are expected to be Chinese, but international students should begin classes there in October 2016, just as HAMMER draws international students.
The center also will be used for regional workshops, conferences and information exchanges, influencing nuclear security in the region. It will demonstrate advanced technologies related to nuclear security.
PNNL, one of four U.S. national laboratories expected to be represented at the opening ceremonies, is providing U.S. expertise on protective and response forces for nuclear reactors.
In a second role, it is the U.S. leader for curriculum development for all the Chinese training programs. It will “instruct the instructors,” said Eric Hirschi, PNNL’s international nuclear security program manager. The lab also will provide expertise in running a training center.
PNNL will draw on its expertise from the HAMMER training center and its experience helping more than 50 other countries develop or hone nuclear security programs for the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration.
The curriculum will cover setting up physical protections for nuclear material, which could include cameras and sensors.
This Center of Excellence is a world-class facility for Chinese, regional and international security training and technical exchanges.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz
Students will be taught methods for nuclear materials accounting, preparing them to understand what types of radioactive materials are at a facility, where they are located, how they are used and who is responsible for it. The goal is to prevent the material from being lost or dispersed.
The curriculum also will cover security force responses to attacks or theft of material.
The opening ceremony is only the start to work. Five trips are scheduled by PNNL specialists to China in the next month to help establish training programs. The lab is expected to play a significant role in the center for the next few years, Hirschi said.
Former Chinese president Hu Jintao and U.S. President Barack Obama announced cooperation on the Chinese center in 2010 and ground was broken in fall 2013. It has space to train 100 students at a time and also has housing facilities.
“This Center of Excellence is a world-class facility for Chinese, regional and international security training and technical exchanges,” Moniz said in a statement.
U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration also is engaged with current and planned centers of excellence in Japan, Republic of Korea and Kazakhstan.