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December 20, 2021

NNSA and CNL conduct joint exercise to improve future nuclear verification work

Photo caption:  The PVT Teams gathers for a photo on the deck plate of the NRX reactor.

Last month, NNSA’s Plutonium Verification Team and members of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) participated in an in-person training exercise at Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario, Canada. The exercise was designed to collect samples from the National Research Experimental research reactor to enhance NNSA’s rapid nuclear verification deployment capabilities. 

The Plutonium Verification Team is a standing team in NNSA’s Office of Nonproliferation and Arms Control (NPAC) that is prepared to implement verification measures that are negotiated by the U.S. government in plutonium handling facilities.

“The Plutonium Verification Team is an essential part of NNSA’s nuclear nonproliferation mission and ensures that the United States is prepared to support a variety of scenarios should they occur,” said Richard Goorevich, Assistant Deputy Administrator of Defense Nonproliferation and the head of NPAC.

“Global security by its very definition requires international cooperation, just as was demonstrated in this recent exercise,” said Bhaskar Sur, Head of CNL’s Safety & Security Directorate. “We were pleased to work with other leading national laboratories in supporting the Plutonium Verification Team, sharing knowledge and best practices, working together towards a safer and more secure world.”

During the exercise, the team trained to use a special verification tool built by the Mechanical Equipment Development branch of CNL, which produces one-of-a-kind tooling and equipment for nuclear power plants and utilities in Canada – and for CNL’s research and environmental remediation missions. In preparation for the exercise, the team coordinated with the National Research Experimental facility’s decommissioning staff to test the new tool safely. The research reactor – Canada’s first – was shut down in 1992 after operating for 45 years. It is now being prepared for decommissioning.

The verification tool allowed the team to collect metal samples from the interior pipes of the heavy water-moderated nuclear reactor to verify its operational history. The team also practiced “freeze” verification scenarios on the National Research Universal nuclear reactor. These hands-on activities facilitate sharing of expertise and experience among the NNSA team members and between the U.S. and Canadian counterparts.

In addition to CNL’s capabilities in nuclear forensics, detection, and safeguards, the execution of this exercise drew on CNL’s deep experience in remote tooling built over many years of reactor support, as well as the operational strength of NNSA’s team in facility decommissioning. Material samples extracted during the exercise will be used to help CNL decommission the reactor.

The United States and Canada continue to be close partners in their effort to prevent proliferation and reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism.

Members of the team include 15 experts from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Savannah River National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and NNSA headquarters. 

Prepared by:       

Erin Connolly, NA-243
Craig Branson, NA-EA



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