Skip to content

UT course teaches first responders how to stay safe in a nuclear incident


Representatives from the National Nuclear Security Administration attend a crisis communications seminar by University of Tennessee’s Institute for Nuclear Security, Monday, August 3. The next day, the Institute held a nuclear safety and security course for regional first responders. (Photo: Submitted by Tennessee Department of Homeland Security Region II)

The Institute contact Tennessee’s second Homeland Security District to put the course together for law enforcement officers from 16 East Tennessee counties.  Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Jenny Holden said the course filled up quickly and had a waiting list.

According to Holden, deputies from Anderson, Campbell, Knox and Monroe County Sheriff’s Offices attended the class, along with representatives from Knoxville Police Department, University of Tennessee Police, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and TVA Police.

“It’s always good to come and meet other agencies from around here,” TVA Police Director Todd Peney said after the class. “You’re seeing them in the classroom setting, so if something goes down, you’ve got people you can contact and ask questions to in law enforcement.”

Lessons learned

Hall and Institute Research Consultant Natalie Rice led the attendees through case studies of real nuclear events, like the Pelindaba nuclear attack in South Africa and the nuclear accidents in Fukushima and Chernobyl.

“Chernobyl is a tragic case where in many cases first responders’  lives were squandered by their government,” Hall said.

When the Chernobyl reactor blew up in 1986, hundreds of first responders received large doses of radiation as they scrambled to contain it. Nearly 50 died.

Soviet secrecy made matters worse. Nearby towns were not immediately evacuated. The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates as many as 4,000 people who were exposed to radiation from the accident will die of cancer.

“The folks who were here today will ultimately be in leadership positions at their agencies,” Hall said. “We want them to have that experience to look back on and say ‘yeah, we need to make sure that we do these things right up front, because we don’t want to waste a life or injure an officer.'”

Rice said she was encouraged to see how many local first responders had already taken steps to address nuclear risks.

Howard Hall, director of University of Tennessee's

Howard Hall, director of University of Tennessee’s Institute for Nuclear Security (left) stands with Todd Peney, TVA Police director (right) after a nuclear security course. (Photo: Knoxville News Sentinel)

“They saw the problems with communication between the government and first responders on the ground at Fukushima,” Hall said. “Specifically, TVA said there were many things in the design of the Fukushima plant and the response to it that they have already addressed here in the United States.”

Peney, whose job at TVA would put him on the front lines of a nuclear plant accident, said he felt confident after studying the Fukushima accident in the course that TVA was prepared to prevent it from happening again.

“That is a fantastic thing to hear when you’re looking at a nuclear disaster, hearing that they know how to do something like that,” Rice said.

Above all, Hall said the three things he hoped responders took away from the course were time, distance and shielding, which are three guidelines for controlling radiation exposure.

“If you’re going to be exposed to radioactive material that is potentially hazardous to people, you want to be there as short a time as possible,” he said. “You want it to be as far away from you as you can reasonably work with and still accomplish your mission, and if possible you want something nice, large and heavy between you and it.”

Knoxville News Sentinel

Hall, Rice and Clement write op ed

Director of the Institute for Nuclear Security, Dr. Howard Hall, together with Dean Rice, global security fellow at the INS, along with Former U.S. Congressman from Tennessee Bob Clement, co-wrote an op ed that was published by the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Nation’s factions need to search for common ground

This great nation of ours has always been one of contrasts, differing philosophies and struggles between classes, races and parties. We have always though found ways to overcome our divisions, and often our internal struggles make us stronger.
In 1958, then-U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy said “Let us not despair but act. Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer…”

Read more Nation’s factions need to search for common ground-3-12-17

Nuclear Security Experts’ Visit to Egypt Promises Tremendous Potential

Howard Hall and Joseph Stainback IV, as well as a visiting Egyptian political and non-proliferation scholar Haidy Ghoname, recently returned from a highly successful trip to Egypt. Ghoname, Hall and Stainback participated in a nuclear security conference organized by the UT Institute for Nuclear Security and hosted by the Egyptian Council of Foreign Affairs (ECFA). Ghoname, who initiated the conference, is a member of ECFA. The conference focused on building international partnerships and encouraging new ideas for helping countries develop the infrastructures needed to support peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Many countries want nuclear energy, but have not yet developed the internal foundations needed to guarantee its safe use.

Hall, Ghoname and Stainback were well-received throughout the course of their visit. Hall delivered opening remarks at the conference in Cairo. Ghoname’s presence at UT is opening new doors for cross-cultural relationships for the Institute. The trio took VIP tours across the country where they connected with Egyptian colleagues, successfully proposing memoranda of understanding with Alexandria University, the Library of Alexandria, and Aswan University. In Aswan, together with its Governor, Maj. Gen. Magdy Fouad Hegazy, Hall, Ghoname, and Stainback prompted interest in a sister city agreement for our local municipalities. And after a brief visit to Luxor, Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Arab Union of Engineering, Hesham M. Rezk and Dr. Abdelelah Eltawil (respectively), presented Hall and Ghoname with an Egyptian Shield, a plaque acknowledging UT’s outreach efforts in Egypt. Back in Cairo, Egyptian Ambassador Gillane Allam invited them to dinner at the Diplomatic Club where they discussed potential collaboration with other figures. Amb. Allam is a career diplomat who held posts in India, Australia, and New Zealand.

Maj. Gen. Eng. Dr. Abdelelah Etawil, Stainback, Dr. Hedy Ghoneme, Amb. Gillane Allam, and Dr. Hall

L to R: Maj. Gen. Eng. Dr. Abdelelah Eltawil, Dr. Stainback, Dr. Haidy Ghoname, Amb. Gillane Allam, and Dr. Hall

UT’s Institute for Nuclear Security leads by example in hosting and delivering local and international workshops, lectures, and meetings designed to foster a culture of nuclear security that can address and resolve some of the toughest issues of our time. The Institute’s world-renowned experts promote excellence in global security through a vital understanding that academic and cultural exchange with government and industry is critical to building partnerships with countries interested in developing nuclear energy.

Aswan Gov. Maj. Gen. Magdy Fouad Hegazy, Hall, Stainback, and Etawil.

L to R: Aswan Gov. Maj. Gen. Magdy Fouad Hegazy, Hall, Stainback, and Eltawil

Prof. Hall is the UT/ORNL Governor’s Chair for Global Nuclear Security and directs the Institute which is housed by the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy. His well-established expertise covers nuclear forensics, nuclear engineering, international transparency, nuclear nonproliferation, and nuclear security science and analysis. Prof. Stainback’s expertise is based on his lifelong career in nuclear security at high-risk facilities. His specialties include domestic safeguards, physical security, nuclear nonproliferation, and domestic International Atomic Energy Agency inspections.

The UT delegates attracted plenty of positive Egyptian media during their visit. During the last week, Hall and Ghoname were interviewed by an Egyptian newspaper as well as “Good Morning Egypt”, a national TV program, (both translated into Arabic).

Stainback remarked, “We experienced the history of civilization at every turn. It was a very enriching experience.”

Over the course of the upcoming year, Ghoname will not only continue contributing her research to the Institute, but she will also devote her remaining time at UT to organizing a special INS conference slated for next May. Ghoname’s knowledge, expertise, extensive connectivity, and enthusiasm for nuclear nonproliferation and global (nuclear) security is sure to continue opening new pathways for the Institute in the Middle East.

Contributed by Sumner Brown (7.11.16)

Applicants sought for 2016 Summer Workshop in International Security

The Program in Arms Control & Domestic and International Security (ACDIS) at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana announces the 5th annual workshop in international security. This one-week workshop is targeted at rising sophomores or advanced undergraduates from colleges and universities across the country. Dates: June 5-10, 2016. Please forward this announcement to interested students.

The workshop has several, interdependent aims:

  1. to inform students about key security issues and equip them with the analytic tools to evaluate global policy proposals to address them;
  2. to develop a self-sustaining network of students with competence and interest in security studies; and
  3. to introduce students to careers in security policy-making in private and public sectors.

Presentations will be given by the following noted individuals:

Stephen G. Brooks, Associate Professor of Government, Dartmouth College

Chris Butler, Instructor, University Laboratory High School, Urbana, IL

Victor Cha, Senior Advisor and Korea Chair, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS)

Lynne M. Rudasill, Global Studies Librarian, Center for Global Studies, UIUC

Erin M. Simpson, Chief Executive Officer, Caerus Associates

Clifford E. Singer, Director, ACDIS, UIUC

Timothy E. Wedig, Associate Director, LAS Global Studies, UIUC

Moira Whelan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Digital Strategy, U. S. Department of State

Upon successful completion of the workshop, students will be awarded a Certificate in International Security Studies and will receive one hour of college credit.

Students from underrepresented groups are particularly encouraged to apply. Limited scholarships are available for applicants with financial need.

Please see for further details. A flyer for this event is available for download here: flyer.pdf

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.

Report an accessibility barrier.Privacy.