CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University is helping to bolster U.S. anti-terrorism and nuclear security efforts through a new graduate student training initiative in nuclear forensics.
A new option in an existing degree program will train the next generation of nuclear forensics professionals, giving them the technical expertise needed to identify pre- or post-detonation nuclear and radiological materials, and determine how and where they were created.
Training in this field, university officials said, will create experts with the skills to provide proof of those responsible for any attack or potential attack. Funding for the graduate student emphasis, which is one of the first of its kind in the nation, will be provided by the Department of Homeland Security through the Nuclear Forensics Education Award Program.
"The use of nuclear materials in several capacities is being pursued, and the reality of the world is that not everyone doing so has honorable intentions," said Brittany Robertson, the first student pursuing the emphasis. "I believe in being proactive, so that we don’t have to be reactive. A nuclear tragedy anywhere, whether intentional or accidental, has the potential to affect everywhere."
The nuclear forensics emphasis is led by Camille Palmer, research professor and instructor at OSU’s Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics. It draws on faculty expertise in nuclear engineering, radiation health physics, radiation detection and radiochemistry, and utilizes state-of-the-art laboratory and spectroscopy facilities in OSU’s Radiation Center.
New courses are being created in nuclear materials science, nuclear forensics analysis, and detection of special nuclear material, which will build on existing courses in radiophysics, radiochemistry, and applied radiation safety.
“Oregon State is one of a handful of universities in the world positioned to make a significant impact in nuclear forensics education and research,” Palmer said. “Our human capital, facilities, and proximity to national laboratories make us a natural fit for a forensics program; and our goal is to continue to strengthen research collaborations to ensure that we are consistently relevant and productive in this field.”