OSU professor helps lead effort to make nuclear world safer

CORVALLIS, Ore. (KGW) — Oregon State University is taking a lead role in a big effort to educate the next generation of nuclear forensic scientists

It will join 15 other universities focused on researching new technology for nuclear security and nonproliferation and an OSU professor will help lead it.

It is an important field because like it or not, we live in a nuclear world,
whether it’s used for power generation or for weapons we hope are never used.

So who investigates nuclear materials to determine its source, trafficking, enrichment and intended use to keep things as safe as possible?

Nuclear forensic scientists do, basically acting like detectives.

“The difference being in this case the signature or the fingerprint so to speak is nuclear in nature,” said Camille palmer, an associate professor in OSU’s School of Nuclear Science & Engineering.
Palmer is a leader in the field, and now deputy director of the 16-university consortium that will use a $25 million federal grant to teach, and develop new ways to investigate the powerful material.

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Applications involve energy production at nuclear power plants.

“But I think contributing to the greater good of society in making sure we can get all the good clean energy out but also do that in a way that ensures that material is not being misused, that it’s not being diverted,” said Palmer.

The other big and potentially more challenging application is how nuclear weapons programs and treaties are monitored in a world with big concerns.

Places like Iran and North Korea, and where just this week Russian president Vladimir Putin suspended Moscow’s participation in the last remaining nuclear arms reduction deal between the U.S. and Russia.

“The weapons are here. They are a threat. And I think anything we can do to help support negotiations, to verify any international treaties or bilateral agreements is a good step in the right direction,” said Palmer.

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It’s important work, grow the field and teaching the next generation of nuclear forensic scientists across the country, including here in Oregon.

Oregon state is very well known as an engineering school, we have the nuclear engineering program here and I think it complements the computer science specialties well, as well,” said Palmer.

The $25 million grant comes from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Oregon State will receive $2.5 million over the next five years for its role in the consortium.

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