Nuclear Science for National Security Applications

Goldblum_Headshot
SPEAKER:
BETHANY GOLDBLUM
DATE/TIME:
MON, 04/20/2020 - 4:00PM TO 5:00PM
LOCATION:
via ZOOM
Spring 2020 Colloquium Series
Abstract:

While the probability of nuclear exchange may be low, the consequences are undeniably grave. My research focuses on methods to improve nuclear security and nonproliferation while advancing technically-sound policies. Via a series of vignettes, I discuss the three main themes of my research—policy-relevant inquiry, data analytics, and applied nuclear physics. First, the planned deployment of new types of nuclear warheads raises questions concerning whether these capabilities alter the threshold for nuclear use—questions that lack the observational data needed to answer them. I provide an introduction to experimental wargaming as a data-generating process, an overview of the SIGNAL wargame, and preliminary results exploring how military capabilities affect the nuclear threshold. Second, recent progress in the development of multi-sensors has opened opportunities for indirect physical sensing of proliferation-relevant phenomena. Using supervised learning and a multisensor network, I demonstrate the classification of nuclear facility operations and explore methods for the transferability of machine learning models. Finally, at the very heart of effective nuclear security is a deep understanding of fundamental nuclear physics. At the 88-Inch Cyclotron at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, my team demonstrated a new method for determining the proton light yield of organic scintillators, a property fundamental to the understanding of their fast neutron response. Our approach has been applied to determine the properties of organic scintillators for use in spectroscopic systems, fast neutron imagers,
and basic nuclear physics. This work represents a concerted effort at the nexus of science, technology, and policy to reduce the risks posed by nuclear weapons.

About the Speaker:
Dr. Bethany Goldblum is an Associate Research Engineer in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley and Executive Director of the Nuclear Science and Security Consortium, a multi-institution initiative established by the National Nuclear Security Administration to train the next generation of nuclear security experts. Her research explores fundamental and applied nuclear physics, proliferation detection, and nuclear weapons policy. Goldblum leads the Bay Area Neutron Group, a research team focused on neutron detection for nuclear security applications, and founded and directs the Nuclear Policy Working Group, an interdisciplinary team of scholars developing policy solutions to strengthen global nuclear security. She has been involved with the Public Policy and Nuclear Threats Boot Camp nearly since its inception, and acted as director of the program since 2014. Goldblum maintains active collaborations with the US DOE National Laboratories, and is an affiliate at Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia National Laboratories. She is the author of more than 70 publications on nuclear science and policy issues. Goldblum received a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

What sounds scary vs what actually matters: risk perspectives for nuclear waste and contamination (and possibly coronavirus)

Haruko
SPEAKER:
HARUKO WAINWRIGHT
DATE/TIME:
MON, 04/13/2020 - 4:00PM TO 5:00PM
LOCATION:
via ZOOM
Spring 2020 Colloquium Series
Abstract:Environmental concerns – mainly associated with nuclear waste and nuclear accidents – have been one of the biggest bottlenecks for nuclear energy. At the same time, the society has been struggling to assess these risks relative to other hazardous waste, other pollution and climate change. In the US, there are more than a hundred sites used for nuclear weapon production, most of which still have significant radiological contamination in soil and groundwater. With more than thirty years of characterization and remediation activities, these sites offer significant insights on environmental mobilities of radionuclides and their impacts on the environment and public health. For example, relative risks/importance among different radionuclides and other heavy metals have been assessed at many sites.

In parallel, environmental remediation has been evolving over the last thirty years. The current focus is to use more sustainable methods such as passive treatments and monitored natural attenuation, after recognizing that clean-up activities have some side effects and risks such as ecological disturbances, intensive energy uses, CO2/waste production and air pollution. We are developing technologies to support such sustainable remediation based on new sensors, machine learning and numerical modeling of radionuclide migration. The particular focus is to develop a new paradigm of long-term monitoring strategies including early warning systems and monitoring network optimization. We have demonstrated these approaches at the Savannah River Site and the region around the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant.

About the Speaker:
Haruko is a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She earned master in nuclear engineering and statistics, and PhD in nuclear engineering at University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on hydrological modeling, spatial statistics, data integration, and uncertainty quantification. She has worked on various research topics in both nuclear engineering and environmental sciences, including nuclear waste, groundwater contamination, Fukushima radiation monitoring, and climate change impacts on ecosystems.