I attended a talk about nuclear security given by Dr. Houston Wood (University of Virginia, Dept. of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering) about using gas centrifuges for making nuclear isotopes. The applications could include both civilian (e.g., nuclear power) and military (e.g., WMDs), with the line between these two being very thin, particularly in the case of highly enriched uranium.
While OR was not central to this talk, it was clear that OR can play a critical role in thickening the line between civilian and military uses of enriched uranium. Dr. Wood listed these topics
- Increasing transparency and inspections
- Increasing safeguards (e.g., measuring material quantities)
- Adding materials accountability and control (e.g., )
- Clearly defining events that prompt state response
If you think nuclear theft isn’t much of an issue, think again. The IAEA database indicates that there are hundreds of known cases of theft of nuclear material. Yikes.
How else can OR protect us from a nuclear attack?