Graduate students study in Richland to keep America safe
A dozen graduate students from across the country are in Richland right now learning how to protect America from potential terrorist attacks.
The students are at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for two weeks to learn how to detect nuclear materials that could be coming into our country.
They say the complex work takes time to master, but the payoff is a safer country.
And one day, these students could help save your life.
"We want to keep the American public safe" said Christopher Lu, University of Texas, Austin student.
The students, who represent the future leaders in nuclear security according to PNNL, are learning how to protect our country from any incoming nuclear threats.
They're doing this by learning how to use complex radiation detection technology to find dangerous nuclear materials that could be crossing the American border.
"There's various challenges in nuclear security, and we need new technology to solve most of those challenges. And so these students are the next generation of technology developers. So we're trying to give them that hands on understanding of what it takes to solve those technology challenges in the field" said Robert Runkle, PNNL nuclear physicist.
The students are using a radiation portal monitor to detect illegal items - the white panels are used to scan cars as they drive through.
The system uses the same technology used at international border crossings throughout the world, so students are getting experience they can put toward their future careers.
"Hopefully, in the future, get a job in nuclear security, protect our country from sources coming into the country that aren't safe" said Sherry Faye, University of Nevada, Las Vegas student.
Part of the challenge students face is distinguishing between dangerous materials like uranium and plutonium, and legal materials containing trace amounts of radiation like kitty litter and bananas.
But students say because of training like this, they'll be ready to face those and other obstacles.
"If we're doing work with international agencies, we're keeping the world as safe as it can be. There is a large sense of satisfaction there" said Lu.
The two week summer class is completely free for the students.
The program is funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration.