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Univ. of Mich. Nabs $25M Nuclear Arms Control Grant

The NNSA is responsible for the management and security of the United States’ nuclear weapons, nuclear nonproliferation and naval reactor programs, and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies around the world, but it has recently come under fire for failing to keep complete and accurate information on nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile.

By Erica Teichert

aw360, Washington (April 02, 2014, 7:15 PM ET) — The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a $25 million grant to the University of Michigan to research and develop nuclear arms control verification technologies, the department said on Monday.

Under the terms of the National Nuclear Security Administration‘s five-year grant, the University of Michigan will lead a consortium to support and improve the federal government’s nuclear safeguards and improve its efforts to monitor countries who don’t follow the international nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

The University of Michigan will be joined by 13 other institutions, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University and Columbia University, as well as eight national laboratories including Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos. In addition to their research and development efforts, the consortium will train new nonproliferation experts, the University of Michigan said.

“Developing the R&D expertise of tomorrow can take years to cultivate,” NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington said in a statement. “But we are linking national laboratories and academia by funding the next generation of researchers to perform complex research and gain an understanding of technical challenges in areas of major importance for the nuclear nonproliferation mission that can only be garnered first-hand at the national laboratories.”

The consortium will be divided into different groups working on monitoring, disarmament and other nuclear safeguard goals, and they hope they will be able to streamline nuclear monitoring processes, which can be costly and time-consuming. Rather than requiring inspectors to open and measure nuclear materials from individual storage containers and verify them against reactor and fuel processing facility records, the group will research neutron detectors and other solutions.

According to a DOE Office of Inspector General report issued last week, NNSA has incomplete product definitions and ineffective management of classified nuclear weapons drawings, which could lead to the unauthorized changes to the drawings.

The OIG audit also found that NNSA sites could not always locate “as-built” product definitions and drawings for nuclear weapons and components in their official records, according to the report. Friedman’s team also found the sites could not always confirm that parts not conforming to specifications were actually built for use in nuclear weapons.

The report issued several recommendations to the NNSA, including that it “prioritize, collect and digitize the original as-built nuclear weapons product definition information” and implement a system to match this information with weapons systems and components. The NNSA concurred with OIG’s recommendations.

–Additional reporting by Zachary Zagger. Editing by Philip Shea.


April 3, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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