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Nonproliferation Concerns for a New Commercial Reprocessing Technology



Chantell Murphy, CISAC, Stanford University

Date and Time

May 2, 2019 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central
616 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305

Abstract: To drastically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and expand energy access, nuclear energy may play a significant role in decarbonizing electrical grids. To the extent that this expansion involves developing new and advanced nuclear fuel cycle technologies, concerns about nonproliferation concurrently grow. To address at least one nonproliferation concern, a safeguards assessment was conducted on a conceptual nuclear waste processing technology, called pyroprocessing, using a traditional safeguards technique, called the neutron balance method. The safeguards assessment revealed that the fundamental requirements needed for the neutron balance method to work were not always observed. The diversion scenario modeled resulted in the undetected diversion of several kilograms of plutonium. The assessment found that traditional safeguards assumptions and techniques might not be adequate to meet nuclear material accountancy requirements. New approaches developed from fundamental research are needed to ensure new facilities are only being used for peaceful purposes.


Speaker's Biography: Chantell Murphy is a Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow at CISAC. Chantell Murphy earned her PhD in nuclear engineering from the University of New Mexico in 2018 and holds a MS in health physics from Georgetown University and a BS in physics from Florida State University.

Chantell Murphy worked as a graduate research assistant at Los Alamos National Laboratory supporting the nuclear engineering and nonproliferation division (NEN-5) and worked in the national security office (NSO). During her time at LANL Ms. Murphy investigated safeguards approaches for pyroprocessing facilities and helped develop an acquisition path analysis software tool called APAT for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Ms. Murphy worked on safeguards approaches for advanced reactor designs like thorium fueled reactors, worked on knowledge retention issues for future warhead verification campaigns, and participated in and gave talks at several international safeguards and nuclear policy related workshops around the US and in Europe. Ms. Murphy also worked as a visiting scientist at the Forschungszentrum Jülich in Germany for three months developing the IAEA’s state level approach and acquisition path analysis with the Nuclear Waste Management and Reactor Safety group in the Institute of Energy and Climate Research.

Chantell Murphy’s previous experience also includes an internship at the Managing the Atom project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and work for the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States.