National Nuclear Security Administration

WSU program sponsored by NNSA leads to safeguards solutions

June 12, 2017

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WSU engineering students Devin Mulvanny, right, and Amber Arbanas, center, explain the gas centrifuge mockup they designed to PNNL mentor Patrick Valdez.

Students from Washington State University’s Industrial Design Clinic delivered equipment prototypes for nonproliferation research and training in May as part of a program sponsored by the NNSA’s Office of International Nuclear Safeguards.

WSU students Amedeo Gallucci, Austin Motley, Louis Peyron, and Andrew Rust designed and fabricated equipment to provide sufficient shielding and consistent, precise positioning of dual high-purity germanium detectors. The students presented their work, which successfully increased the detectors’ ability to detect nuclear material, to PNNL scientist Mike Cantaloub, who will incorporate the equipment in his laboratory.

“These students looked at the requirements for shielding and detector positioning, and the footprint of the laboratory, and provided a solution that I had not thought of. I enjoy the experience of working with the students through this program,” Cantaloub said.

Amber Arbanas, Devin Mulvanny, and Zane Pierce presented two tabletop-sized—but not operational— mockups of gas centrifuges to PNNL mentors Jim Spracklen and Patrick Valdez. Understanding how highly enriched uranium is produced is critical to work in nonproliferation, safeguards, and export control. Based on a 1955 design, and fabricated to be robust enough to withstand shipping from class to class, these mockups will be used in future PNNL nonproliferation training.

The safeguards design challenge provides rare hands-on opportunities for students to design, plan, and fabricate solutions to real-world safeguards challenges. In its eighth year at PNNL, a number of design challenge alumni now conduct safeguards research as laboratory employees.

WSU engineering student Amedeo Gallucci, left, describes the features of the frame he and his team designed to hold lead shielding and position dual nuclear detectors to PNNL scientist Mike Cantaloub.