Sandia LabNews

Cooperative monitoring goes online as field trial expands to storage magazines

"Good job," remarked a Russian visitor upon leaving an old storage magazine at Sandia/California that had been instrumented with the latest monitoring systems.

The visitor, one of five from Russia’s Arzamas-16 and Mayak nuclear research facilities, had just participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony capping a year of successful lab-to-lab collaboration in nuclear material monitoring technology.

The collaboration between Sandia and Arzamas evolved from an idea broached at a "smart containers" workshop hosted by the Cooperative Measures Program (5337) in Albuquerque in November 1996 and subsequently launched through a Container-to-Container field trial.

The goal of this effort was for Sandia and Arzamas each to instrument an empty nuclear material container and display the information on the Internet’s World Wide Web using a satellite communications system recently installed by DOE’s Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program. It is possible to log onto the Web site at and see live data from monitors on a container located inside the VNIIEF institute at Arzamas and a container at Sandia’s Cooperative Monitoring Center in Albuquerque.

As a follow-on to the cooperative container field trial, Sandia and Arzamas will each fully instrument a storage magazine with remote monitoring equipment. The Russian lab’s magazine is due to go online by July 1998.

The Sandia magazine was unveiled at the California site Nov. 11, 1997, during a 12-day visit by the Russian delegation to Sandia’s California and Albuquerque sites.

Images displayed on Internet

Archival images of the visit, as well as real-time data from the online magazine sensors, are on the Web. Real-time magazine data from California (and other sites as they come online) can be accessed via the site at or directly at A magazine located at Sandia/New Mexico was to have sensor data online beginning this month.

"This is another tool to minimize the need for physical access to inspect the material and provide greater knowledge, more widely, about what’s going on with the material," commented Curt Nilsen, the US technical lead for the field trial and an analyst in Systems Studies Dept. 8114. "This is one of the first times that live, remote monitoring data is being exchanged with a Russian nuclear weapon laboratory," he added.

During the later portion of 1997, briefings about the monitoring collaboration were given to Secretary of Energy Federico Peña, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Assistant Secretary of Energy for Arms Control and Nonproliferation Rose Gottemoeller.

The Container-to-Container and Magazine-to-Magazine Field Trials are sponsored by the Cooperative Measures Program (5337). The project work is coordinated by Dennis Croessmann (5337, project lead), Curt (lead on US installations), and Bob Pollock (6237, lead on Russian installations).

Image updated every three seconds

During the ceremony in California, Dennis helped cut the ribbon on the storage magazine with Boris Barkanov, a senior manager from Arzamas-16. After touring the magazine, Dennis said Boris remarked, "Now I understand what we need to do."

The effort draws on sensors and other technologies already being developed at Sandia for nuclear materials monitoring in a program led by Brad Mickelsen (2221). Other contributors include Joe Damico (8411), Robert Kinzel, Beth Wichman (both 2221), Bobby Corbell (5749), Robert Martinez (5749), Jerry Silva (5749), Rudy Garcia (9419), Bill Miles (9419), Lozanne Chavez (9403), and Linda Gallagher (9403). In addition, John Rosenow of Health and Safety Dept. 8821 was responsible for overseeing use of the former explosives magazine, while Theresa Price of Visitor Control Dept. 8811 handled foreign clearances expeditiously and computer networking staff accomplished a major task in getting the magazine online, Curt said.

The interactions are "friendly and productive, engineer to engineer," he said, with a lot of time at a chalkboard spent "figuring out the best way to solve a common problem." He said the collaborators share the conviction that nuclear material management is a "growing and important mission."

In a differently funded project, Gary Richter (8114) hosted other Russian visitors in October 1997. He organized two-and-a-half days of talks concerning physical security of nuclear facilities and cultural differences in how these issues are approached.

His delegation of four visitors was headed by Peter Kirillov, the Deputy General Director for Security of the Urals Electrochemical Integrated Plant, which houses the largest uranium processing facility in the world. Gary had met Kirillov – who is the equivalent of a vice president in an organization of 18,000 – while working in Russia as a DOE monitor overseeing destruction of nuclear material.

Gary said that in the autumn discussions, it became clear why Russia has historically used labor-intensive approaches to security as opposed to relying heavily on technological advances the way the United States has. He hopes further discussions will ensue and believes the understanding gained so far will make it easier to work cooperatively.