NNSA_Logo PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University is part of a new $12.5 million National Nuclear Security Administration Actinide Center of Excellence devoted to research in actinide and nuclear chemistry.

Based at the University of Notre Dame, the Actinide Center of Excellence (ACE) is tasked with research that is important for stockpile stewardship — the certification that the nation’s nuclear weapons are secure and operational.

Sue Clark

Research at the ACE will integrate both experimental and computational approaches to analyze radioactive materials, including the elements americium, neptunium, plutonium and uranium, taking advantage of specialized facilities developed at Notre Dame. Researchers will focus on three specific themes:

  • The properties and structure of nanoscale radioactive materials.
  • The thermochemistry, or heat energy, associated with these materials.
  • How nanoscale nuclear materials react in various chemical environments.
Neil Ivory

Sue Clark, WSU’s Regents Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, and Neil Ivory, professor of chemical engineering, will be part of a ACE team studying how nanoscale nuclear materials react in various chemical environments. Professor Clark is serving as a lead for this research theme and is also a member of the executive committee for the effort.

A major goal of the ACE is to support workforce development as it pertains to the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program, which is overseen by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Researchers will train graduate students, postdoctoral scientists and engineers to plan, set up and conduct safe and efficient experiments with radioactive materials.

In addition to WSU, the center is partnering with Northwestern University, Oregon State University and the University of Minnesota. It will be funded over five years and support 16 doctoral students and eight postdoctoral researchers from across all the universities. The program will require graduate students to complete a course in actinide chemistry, taught jointly by the University of Notre Dame and WSU. They must also complete a three-month research internship at a DOE national laboratory, including the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, where Clark has a joint appointment.