$2.6 million DOE contract creates nuclear security education program

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State has received a $2.6 million contract from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to create a nuclear security education program.

The contract is part of the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration's Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and brings together Penn State, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Texas A&M University to create a nuclear security curriculum. The combined total of contracts for Penn State, MIT and Texas A&M is approximately $6.5 million.

"Acquisition of nuclear and radioactive materials for use in weapons of mass destruction and other acts of terrorism is one of the major threats to global security. The DOE and other federal agencies wanted to know how to prevent nuclear terrorism," explained Kenan Ünlü, director of Penn State's Radiation Science and Engineering Center, professor of nuclear engineering and the grant's principal investigator. "They found that the majority of experts in the field were retiring or retired. We needed new blood."

Each university was tasked with developing one or two courses for the nuclear security curriculum. The universities will then teach their respective courses and transfer the materials to the other two institutions. The goal of this approach is to create a unified nuclear security program.

Penn State's two courses focus on detecting and identifying sources, security systems and transportation issues with nuclear security and a complementary laboratory class on nuclear security applications of detectors, sensors and sources for radiation detection and measurements.

MIT is developing a course on global nuclear security policies while Texas A&M is creating a course on threat analysis and assessment and another on design and analysis of security systems for nuclear and radiological facilities.

In the end, each university will have a five-course nuclear security curriculum for graduate students in nuclear engineering.

Ünlü said the new curriculum will allow Penn State to offer its students a master's degree in nuclear engineering with an emphasis on nuclear security.

The University plans to begin teaching its courses in 2012. Ünlü said the goal is for each institution to have taught each of the five classes at least twice by the end of 2013. The target date to permanently add these classes to the Penn State curriculum is fall 2014.

Once the curriculum is firmly established, Ünlü said he hopes to add the courses to Penn State's World Campus.

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Last Updated September 15, 2011