'NuSec' Nuclear Security Science Network - Extension Grant

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: Physics


The importance and urgency for this proposed network is illustrated by recent data from the IAEA who maintains a database of incidents and illicit trafficking events of nuclear and radioactive material. From January 1993 to December 2013 the IAEA report 2477 incidents. Their conclusions include that material is available and that globally individuals and groups are prepared to engage in trafficking. Understandably, Nuclear security, in particular against terrorist attack, continues to be high priority to the UK's government. The national risk register of civil emergencies, published by the Cabinet Office says:

"The Government is prioritising efforts to stop terrorists gaining the capabilities to deliver such {chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear} attacks. But if terrorist groups were successful, their potential impact on the UK would be severe and significantly greater than a conventional attack. "

The national counter terrorism strategy CONTEST therefore says:

"...their impact is so high that we judge preparations must be made for them. As in so many other areas of this strategy those preparations must wherever possible be coordinated with our allies overseas. "

Much of those preparations require technological developments in Nuclear Security Science. This subject is multidisciplinary and critically dependent on end-user engagement to be effective. This network will be the mechanism that associates the broad spectrum of disciplines that could possibly contribute, with the end users (UK and international) who can articulate the requirements.

This program is an extension to our successful NuSec network in Nuclear Security Science which ran from 2015 to 2019. The scope of the network will remain focussed on radiation detectors and detection techniques applied to nuclear security applications, which lies within the STFC Global Challenges 'security' theme of the network call. A key objective will be to build research capability in nuclear security topics and to continue to encourage dialogue and collaboration between academic researcher, primarily but not limited to the STFC community, and stake holders in industry and government agencies. In addition the network will provide a point of focus for the UK community to better position themselves for future bids to major sources of funding both nationally (eg, STFC, other research councils, Innovate UK) and internationally principally through EU and US programmes.

A broad range of industrial, defence and academic partners are vital to the success of the network. The UK has traditionally had a very strong representation in detector development within the academic community, but this has tended to focus on large-scale national science priorities principally funded through STFC. Therefore this network will provide a strong forum for the research community to engage with end-users in industry and the defence sectors, and to allow these stakeholders to engage the academic community in their application challenges.

Planned Impact

Maximising impact is at the heart of the NuSec network, through the use of a range of funded impact activities that lie at the heart of the network's objectives. In this extension proposal we will continue to identify pathways to impact across the broad range of network activities.

Here we describe the wider impact that the NuSec network has achieved during Phase 1, and will continue to deliver in Phase 2.

1. The Beneficiaries
(i) Society - the nuclear security agenda is critical to national safeguarding and to the protection of society. A strong engagement between government agencies, academic and industry generates a benefit for all of society. A good example from Phase 1 of the network was our NuSec workshop on alternative technologies for the oil well logging industry. This brought together ~30 senior oil industry experts from Europe and US for a 2 day workshop at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Cambridge University.
(ii) People - the network continues to provide cross-fertilisation of technical expertise between research disciplines and the integration of the various stakeholder communities. Those engaging with the network extend their skills set and experience. The network offers grants to support a wide range of professional and researcher development skills, and to provide technical training opportunities to benefit researchers.

2. How the Network Activities will deliver Impact
The network delivers impact directly through its programme of regular and occasional activities.

Developing Strategic Partnerships
The network's primary objective has been to establish a forum for discussion and collaboration between the academic, industrial and defence sectors. This has accelerated the development of a strong research community in the nuclear science area, and has acted to broker interactions and partnership between the academic and MoD/Home Office communities. Our strategic partners each offer a unique input into the programme and are fully involved with the regular network meetings and technical workshops. Both the network's Management Group (MG) and End User Panel (EUP) are made up of key stakeholders who monitor the network's progress towards developing strategic partnerships. The independent Steering Board, representing the interests of the stakeholder groups, ensures the development of partnerships through these various activities.

Technology Development
The network will continue to receive direct funding from AWE to support pilot studies and small proof of concept studies. These are challenge-led projects that are focussed on the requirements of these government agency stakeholders. In this way the network develops technology demonstrators that address government requirements, for example as defined by the national counter terrorism strategy CONTEST which addresses the "...highest impact terrorist risks including even nuclear materials..." In Phase 1 of the network, NuSec awarded 15 of these pilot projects to UK Universities, which addresses technical challenges identified by the End Use Panel.

Dissemination activities
All network outputs are unclassified, and the majority are publicly available and openly disseminated, including technical workshop presentations, results from pilot studies, scoping documents and position papers. Dissemination uses a dedicated website to promote the network activities and outputs, and the University's Surrey Research Insight digital open access repository to store and disseminate network outputs and documents. The network showcase meeting will publicise the network outputs to a wider audience.

Supporting Researcher Engagement: The network will provide a series of opportunities for researchers to develop their technical skills and knowledge.

Full details are given in the separate Pathways to Impact Statement


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