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Nuclear Science for National Security Applications
April 20, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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.