Nuclear Proliferation Challenge Announced

April 01, 2014

A local office of the Department of Energy is looking for new ideas on detection of nuclear proliferation using concepts of network science.
They have announced a competition and a prize of $2K.  Below is an excerpt from the challenge solicitation:

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Building and testing a nuclear device requires knowledge, materials, tools, and space. State-sponsored proliferation is generally assumed to involve diversion of materials from civilian or research power generation. There are many networks involved; an incomplete list includes supply-chain and production (mining, transportation, materials conversion and enrichment, reprocessing, storage), power networks, communication networks, finance networks, seismic and sensing networks, and social networks (people in multiple rôles).

The National Research Council defines network science as “the study of network representations of physical, biological, and social phenomena leading to predictive models of these phenomena.” Can the techniques of network science uncover patterns that would indicate potential proliferation? We’re looking for ideas for applications of network science to proliferation detection, in any one of four subtopics:

• Detection of indicators of clandestine uranium enrichment to weapons-grade concentrations
• Detection of indicators of diversion of materials from a civilian enrichment, power generation, or reprocessing plant
• Dual use of a research reactor to generate weapons-grade materials
• Detection of an unannounced, unacknowledged underground test

You don't have to be a nonproliferation expert to have good ideas. For many nonproliferation-relevant activities, your common sense is a good-enough guide. For instance, for a clandestine underground test, there needs to be a location, a deep hole in the ground (which has to be drilled), equipment for emplacement, sensors for measurement, engineers and scientists to run the test and evaluate the results, and so on. Part of the challenge is to identify which networks you want to include.

Network science is only beginning to be systematically applied to proliferation detection. Your ideas could help.

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Download the PDF for more information.

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