Augmented Reality Training Brings Nuclear Security to the Next Level

For most, augmented reality is a type of game—one where they can fight bad guys, fly spaceships, or catch Pokémon in a hybrid environment made up of both virtual and real-life elements.

But at Sandia National Laboratory augmented reality has a much bigger purpose—nuclear security.

Computer scientists Tam Le and Todd Noel have adapted augmented reality headsets—originally designed for gaming—as part of the physical security training curriculum Sandia provides in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) International Nuclear Security programs.

“This technology really enhances our mission, which is to increase and improve the international nuclear security training for those who deal with our nuclear stock piles and weapons and materials,” said Le in an exclusive interview with R&D Magazine. “It really does help to increase and improve this training in so many ways.”

Le and Noel have been incorporating augmented reality elements into Sandia’s nuclear training programs since March 2016. Most notably, they’ve updated the International Training Course on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities (ITC), a three-week training session for nuclear materials and facilities professionals worldwide.

Trainings are held at Sandia’s Integrated Security Facility, which was originally designed to protect Category I nuclear material, but now serves as a venue for hands-on physical security training. The incorporation of the augmented reality headsets at the facility allows students to peer through walls and see all the processes needed to handle and protect nuclear material, without having to access actual hazardous material.

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