Nuclear Science for National Security Applications

MON, 04/20/2020 - 4:00PM TO 5:00PM
via ZOOM
Spring 2020 Colloquium Series

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.