Measures for keeping nuclear materials out of the wrong hands can be as straightforward as a stout post beam designed to stop massive, speeding trucks in their tire tracks—or they can be as complex as fencing draped with a web of sensors so acute they can differentiate the movements of men from those of jackrabbits. Multiple systems and strategies are necessary to safeguard nuclear materials in nonmilitary facilities such as hospitals, clinics, and nuclear power plants.
This may be the most important lesson learned by 44 nuclear operators and policy makers from 36 countries who recently completyed the three-week international training course on the physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities. Sponsored by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the class has been held at Sandia every 18 months since 1978. Since its inception, more than 800 people from 73 countries have taken the course.
Denis Flory of the IAEA and Anne Harrington of the NNSA both praised the course, which is taught by experts at Sandia. “Look around this room and this facility to see why this course is offered here,” Harrington said, indicating the displays–exhibits, videos, diagrams–outlining the history of nuclear security. “You’re getting hands-on instruction by people who do this for a business.
Among the countries represented by students in this year’s class are Canada, Australia, France, Pakistan, Egypt, and Mexico. Julius Sabo, a security manager for a nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic, took the course in 2006. He was at Sandia on Monday in the role of guest lecturer for the security course. “This is a great opportunity to learn with the best experts,” Sabo said. “This is grand, the highest level. This is the University of Nuclear Protection.”