Editor's note: this article was originally posted on Argonne National Laboratory's website.
Fast-tracking the educational and professional opportunities for engineers in nuclear packaging is a global challenge — and critical to ensuring our nation’s safety and security.
In a pioneering partnership, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory has been taking on that challenge by offering the DOE’s Packaging Certification Program’s (PCP) training courses for the University of Nevada, Reno’s (UNR) Graduate Certificate in Nuclear Packaging (GCNP). Also involved are DOE and other DOE national labs. Since 2015, 67 students have taken GCNP courses for credits, and the first certificate was awarded in 2017.
Kelly Hansen, Transportation Safety program manager in Argonne’s Nuclear and Waste Management division, knows firsthand of the value of the program. Said Hansen, who will graduate in December, “… the practical knowledge I gained was invaluable. What attracted me to the program was the condensed nature of the courses — I could immediately advance my skills in support of Argonne’s activities in the transportation of Type B and fissile material packages.” Hansen noted the program appeals to a diverse community of engineers, analysts and users in the U.S. and other countries.
The program’s genesis is as novel as the program. In 2013, Argonne’s Yung Liu, manager of the Packaging Certification and Life Cycle Management program, sought to fill a critical gap in nuclear packaging: trained experts and future leaders in the field. To achieve his goal, Liu partnered with James Shuler, manager of DOE’s Packaging Certification Program, and UNR’s Miles Greiner, Foundation Professor of Mechanical Engineering.
Liu was instrumental in enabling the unprecedented partnership. “We leveraged the resources and expertise of DOE, national laboratories, and academia in a novel way to launch this much-needed program,” explained Liu, co-principal educator of the GCNP program.
With Argonne in a leadership role, four other national laboratories (Lawrence Livermore, Oak Ridge, Sandia and Savannah River) affiliated with the DOE PCP are also participating.
Experience-driven and holistic, the program’s outcome-focused architecture helps students succeed. “I strongly support this innovative program,” said Shuler. “A robust curriculum and hands-on experience give students a new way to fast-track their careers in nuclear packaging. As a result, they are among the best-qualified, best-prepared professionals for tackling complex problems in nuclear packaging — and will be trusted leaders with the skills to help ensure our nation’s safety and security.”
Here’s how the program works: Required courses provide the foundation, and electives — taught by experts at Argonne and other national laboratories — enrich the core curriculum as students engage directly with leaders in the field. Through internships, students then work with a packaging professional at a national laboratory or industry site, jointly supervised by a UNR professor.
One of Argonne’s most notable contributions to the program is Liu’s patented ARG-US (“Watchful Guardian” in Greek mythology) remote monitoring systems technology. It enhances the safety, security and safeguards of nuclear and other radioactive materials in critical facilities and during transportation. “Incorporating demos and field exercises using ARG-US provides hands-on experience for students is essential,” commented Liu.
To help increase awareness, Liu and Greiner led a tutorial on two GCNP required courses at the 2019 Waste Management Symposia in Phoenix. The complete courses were part of a summer school program at UNR in 2019 attended by U.S. and international students.
Reaching out to potential students, both in the United States and abroad, will help program collaborators strengthen the program, enabling more students — like Hansen — to develop the key skills they need to help solve complex problems in nuclear packaging. And given the current program’s success, UNR aims to engage even more students by launching a companion program, a graduate certificate in transportation security and safeguards in 2021.
For more information about the program, contact Yung Liu.