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Sammies finalist Kara De Castro, management analyst at NNSA, discusses how her work has made nuclear facilities around the world more secure.

Around the world, efforts are in place to make sure that nuclear materials don’t fall into the wrong hands. The United States’ international programs to prevent security breaches are led by the National Nuclear Security Administration. While some of these initiatives are solved with atomic scientists working on technical problems, others are more focused on the human element. Kara De Castro, management analyst at NNSA, is a finalist for a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America medal. She says that many issues with maintaining nuclear security come from culture problems at installations.


“We have been working with several partners all over the world to enhance safety and security. For example, in nuclear security, we used to depend mostly on guns, guards and gates. We started integrating more technology, alarms, motion sensors, closed circuit TV cameras to improve the security of nuclear materials,” Castro said. “What we found out after we did that was people were breaking the rules. They would prop up an emergency exit door to have a smoke break, the guards wouldn’t respond to that alarm because they knew their guys were smoking. People wouldn’t plug in radiation detection monitors. They weren’t sure how to use the equipment or they thought it was too fancy to use on a regular basis. I knew we that had to focus on people and getting people to understand that there was a threat to these materials and that they had a role and responsibility in protecting those materials.”

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