Nuclear Experts Conduct Counterproliferation Exercise
by U.S. Army Walter Ham, 20th CBRNE Command
August 13, 2022
American Soldiers from Nuclear Disablement
Team 2 conducted nuclear counterproliferation training with
personnel from the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration and
United Kingdom Ministry of Defense during an exercise in May 2022.
The exercise was the first time one of the U.S. Army Nuclear
Disablement Teams have trained in the United Kingdom.
Disablement Team 2 is one of three NDTs from the 20th Chemical,
Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, the
U.S. Department of Defense’s premier deployable all hazards
As a part of the 2018 Department of
Defense Nuclear Posture Review, the NDTs provide advanced forensics
and attribution capabilities in support of overseas and domestic
NDTs directly contribute to the nation’s strategic
deterrence by staying ready to exploit and disable nuclear and
radiological Weapons of Mass Destruction infrastructure and
components to deny near-term capability to adversaries and
facilitate WMD elimination operations.
In addition to the NDT
1 “Manhattan,” NDT 2 “Iron Maiden” and NDT 3 “Vandals,” the Aberdeen
Proving Ground, Maryland-based 20th CBRNE Command is home to 75
percent of the Active Duty Army’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal
technicians and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN)
specialists, as well as the 1st Area Medical Laboratory, CBRNE
Analytical and Remediation Activity and five Weapons of Mass
Destruction Coordination Teams.
From 19 bases in 16 states,
Soldiers and civilians from the 20th CBRNE Command take on the
world’s most dangerous hazards in support of joint, interagency and
Maj. Neal J. Trump, a nuclear operations
officer from NDT 2, said the Nuclear Disablement Team began planning
for the exercise in 2020 but COVID-19 postponed it.
2022, the exercise took place at multiple locations in the United
Kingdom. NDT 2 participated during the first half of the month at
the Sellafield site in northwest England and at the Weeton Barracks
about an hour from Manchester, England.
“The exercise as a
whole validated the Department of Energy Mobile Packaging Teams in
the receipt and processing of material collected from nuclear
facilities and also integrated the participation of personnel from
the DoE's Plutonium and Uranium Verification Teams,” said Trump, an
Iraq veteran and former infantry officer from Lancaster,
Pennsylvania, who has commanded Soldiers in the 82nd Airborne
Division and 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard).
exercise offered a unique training opportunity for NDT 2 to
characterize an industrial-scale reprocessing facility and to
recognize the equipment and materials used there, said Trump.
In addition to seven Soldiers from NDT 2, four Soldiers from the
other NDTs were able to participate in the exercise.
U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua Kamami, a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) specialist for Nuclear Disablement Team 1, watches on as Nuclear Disablement Team 2 CBRN specialist Sgt. Shivam Patel runs a swipe across the surfaces of a glove port to check for the presence of radioactive contamination. Held in the glovebox training facility at Sellafield Site, this training occurred during a training exercise
on May 11, 2022 in the United Kingdom.
(U.S. Army 20th CBRNE Command courtesy photo)
exercise presented a truly unique training experience for NDT 2 that
will pay dividends for a long time to come,” said Trump. “Since
there are currently no commercial reprocessing facilities for spent
nuclear fuel operating in the United States, conducting training at
Sellafield exposed team members to a portion of the nuclear full
cycle that we rarely have the opportunity to work in and at a scale
that nobody had witnessed before.”
Trump said the NDT
Soldiers were able to conduct a reconnaissance and characterization
of the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP), as well as perform
sampling operations of highly accurate simulants from large negative
“The most enduring effect of the
exercise, however, will likely be the excellent relationships we
developed with Sellafield personnel that we hope to leverage for
further training opportunities in the future,” said Trump.
During the exercise, NDT Soldiers refined procedures for detecting
nuclear material and collecting gamma ray spectra, as well as
packaging simulated samples of nuclear material to transfer to the
NNSA's Mobile Plutonium Facility.
“Perhaps most importantly,
the exercise allowed the team to further develop our relationship
with the subject matter experts employed by DoE and NNSA. We hope
that our participation in this exercise will open the door to future
collaboration between the NDTs and the NNSA,” said Trump. “The
highlight of the exercise, from my point of view, was the degree of
interagency partnership building that was able to occur.”
Sellafield, representatives from the NNSA’s Uranium Verification
Team and Plutonium Verification Team not only observed the training
but also participated in discussions about how both organizations
can better support one another in the counterproliferation fight.
NDT 2 Soldiers also used the U.S. Department of Energy’s
reach-back process while in the United Kingdom to send requests for
information to a U.S.-based team of subject matter experts who were
able to provide technical guidance in support of the NDT
characterization of the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant.
“At the conclusion of our training, NDT 2 prepared and presented an
exploitation brief to senior members of the 20th CBRNE Command and
leadership of the NNSA’s Nuclear Compliance Verification and Mobile
Packaging programs,” said Trump. “This interaction further served to
demonstrate the capabilities of the NDTs to key interagency partners
and acted as a relationship-building venue between key DoE
professionals and NDT personnel.”
Glen L. Jackson, the White
Team lead from the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration,
said the NNSA, U.S. Department of Defense, UK Ministry of Defense,
Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and countless other mission
partners came together to coordinate and deconflict the numerous
training activities occurring simultaneously.
that meticulous planning ensured that each organization could
achieve their respective training objectives while also supporting
the broader goals of the exercise.
The National Nuclear
Security Administration is responsible for the monitoring,
verification, removal and securing of high-risk nuclear and
radiological materials and equipment around the world that pose a
potential threat to the United States and the international
“Overseas deployment exercises provide the
opportunity to practice not just these missions but also the
foundational logistics required to execute them through the
integrated and collaborative efforts of NNSA and Department of
Defense,” said Jackson, who has served as a contractor at the
Savannah River Site in South Carolina for 31 years.
was also the White Team leader when 20th CBRNE Command NDT personnel
participated in Exercise Relentless Rook at the Savannah River Site
Jonathan P. Spencer, a manager at the Sellafield
site, said joint training exercises give his site invaluable
opportunities to share knowledge and learn from the other
“While Sellafield's challenges are different
in many ways to the challenges faced by the NDT, there are some
similarities,” said Spencer. “Seeing how other teams approach tasks
like characterization, sampling and radiation and contamination
control is very instructive. There are many learning points from the
exercise which will help inform our work in the future. Finally,
Sellafield recognizes the important role the NDT performs and takes
pride in being able to play a small role in the NDT training and
Spencer, who has worked at Sellafield Ltd
for 12 years, credited the success of the exercise to advanced
planning done by NDT 2 Team Chief Lt. Col. Ronald C. Lenker and Maj.
Neal Trump with his Sellafield team, including Astelle Batty and
“It was evident that the attention to detail
resulted in the successful running of the exercise,” said Spencer.
“Due to the nature of work on the Sellafield deployments, such as
this exercise while on paper may appear simple in reality are not
The exercise was the first at the
Sellafield site’s new Glove Box Training Facility.
“It was a
great pleasure and honor for Sellafield Ltd to host this visit
within THORP and our Glovebox Training Facility,” said Spencer. “It
was a particular highlight to see NDT members calmly, methodically
and professionally tackle the very challenging scenarios we created
for them in this new facility.”
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