What Were Hundreds of Nuclear Policy Wonks Doing in the California Desert? #INMM19!

Earlier this month, experts from the Nuclear Threat Initiative addressed a host of nuclear security-related issues at the 60th Annual Meeting of the Institute for Nuclear Materials Management (INMM), a “nonprofit technical organization with worldwide membership of engineers, scientists, technicians, managers, policymakers, analysts, commercial vendors, educators, and students.” The INMM’s annual meetings always draw an impressive crowd of technical and policy experts to discuss the latest research, development, and analysis in the nuclear materials management space. The diversity of expertise allows for a packed week of presentations on topics ranging from facility operations and materials control and accountability to international safeguards, nonproliferation, and arms control.

As a sustaining member of INMM, NTI always sends a team to the annual meeting to learn, present, participate, and lead some of the discussions. This year, six NTI experts traveled to Palm Desert, CA to discuss or present on: state systems of accounting and control; advanced nuclear reactors; arms control and disarmament verification; and security of radioactive sources, both in the United States and internationally. These experts represented NTI’s Materials Risk Management program (Vice President Laura Holgate, Senior Program Officer Leon Ratz, and Program Officer Jessica Bufford) and International Fuel Cycle Strategies program (Vice President Corey Hinderstein, Senior Director Richard Johnson, and me, Program Officer Alex Bednarek).

In addition to chairing a session on arms control verification and supporting my NTI colleagues during their presentations, I found myself bouncing in and out of fascinating sessions with policy discussions on management of spent nuclear fuel around the world, advanced reactor safeguards, comparisons between nuclear and aviation security, and safety and security cultures in nuclear facilities.

Those were some of my favorites, but I also find it fun at INMM to have the chance to sit in on and learn from technical discussions, no matter how “in-the-weeds” they might get. 

INMM also offers the chance to reconnect with old friends and colleagues and build new networks among the hundreds of attendees. During session breaks, attendees are encouraged to explore the exhibit hall, where booths are staffed by representatives from the US National Laboratories, the broader national security complex, and the nuclear industry. These breaks are also a great time to see the poster presentations accepted for display. These posters give brief overviews of some of the technical and non-technical work happening at universities and offices around the world. This year, work in eight countries was represented.

The closing plenary is always a highly anticipated event and this year, the meeting was capped off with a riveting session hosted by Tomás Bieda, from the Undersecretariat of Nuclear Energy of Argentina. Tomás led an interactive discussion on the challenge of mitigating insider threats at nuclear facilities using a fictional scenario in which various “reactor employees” gave testimonies about concerning behaviors they had observed in a “reactor operator.” Using an anonymous online polling system, the audience was then prompted to answer questions related to trust, observed behavior, and appropriate responses to personnel issues based on these testimonies.

Overall, the 60th Annual Meeting of the INMM was a great success, and my colleague Laura Holgate may have summed it up best on Facebook: "Almost 500 attendees from across the country and around the world, discussing how to know how much (nuclear material) you have, know where it is, prevent it from moving when it's not supposed to, and find it if it goes missing." 

I look forward to #INMM20!

Learn more about INMM here.

Find the full agenda of the 60th Annual Meeting of the INMM here.

July 31, 2019
Alex Bednarek
Alex Bednarek

Program Officer, Fuel Cycle Strategies

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