About the DoNuTS Initiative

In September 2007, a team of researchers led by Prof. Ed Morse of the UC Berkeley Department of Nuclear Engineering (NE), received a grant through the Academic Research Initiative, a joint venture of the Department of Homeland Security and the National Science Foundation. Funded by one of two large grants awarded by the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), the Domestic Nuclear Threat Security (DoNuTS) Initiative provides up to $7.1M over five years to develop technology for the detection of smuggled nuclear materials and to train the next generation of nuclear detection experts. "We have a history in Berkeley of working in nuclear technology that goes back to the Manhattan Project," Professor Morse states. "My way of looking at it is, it is really like the next Manhattan Project." The initiative includes researchers from UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

"Developing more nuclear scientists is a key goal in a nation that has seen a sharp decline in nuclear engineering departments at American universities in the past generation," said DNDO deputy assistant director Nick Prins. Lieutenant Colonel Prins says of the importance of education in the DNDO mission "You need to train the next generation. There is a shortage." Training and education of nuclear detection experts is a critical component of the DoNuTS Initiative. Professor Morse explains, "That's our product here: students. We try to do smart things ourselves, but the students are probably a big part of it." Undergraduate and graduate students work alongside professional researchers on DoNuTS projects.

Professor Morse explains the need for this research: "There's a lot of natural radioactive material in cargo. For example, a load of porcelain toilets. They are basically made out of clay, which has thorium in it, and thorium is a radioactive element." These naturally-occurring radioactive sources can lead to unacceptable rates of false positives, creating costly backlogs at secondary screening sites. "They're not going to set things up so that they have a bunch of professors sitting around with monitors looking at every container for 12 hours. Talk about disrupting the economy - it would stop the economy."

Click here to watch Prof. Morse describe the DoNuTS Initiative at the Department of Nuclear Engineering Colloquium, February 23, 2009.