Mechanical and nuclear engineering assistant professor Braden Goddard, Ph.D., hosted an international workshop on countering finance activities for the illegal manufacture, acquisition or use of nuclear weapons. The program was presented in collaboration with VCU’s School of Business, and with support from the Argonne National Laboratory. It brought together scholars from the U.S., Angola, Mozambique and South Africa.
The workshop sessions, held virtually over four weeks in October and November, addressed topics such as sanctions evasion and the role of cryptocurrencies in proliferation finance. These topics, Goddard said, are essential to international security.
“Stopping countries from getting the money required to improve their nuclear weapons and build new nuclear weapons is one of the greatest challenges humanity faces in advancing global peace and security,” Goddard said.
Combating financing for the proliferation of nuclear weapons is an increasing focus of regulators and financial institutions, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Successfully addressing this threat requires a multidisciplinary approach comprising both scientific and financial expertise.
In this effort, nuclear engineers are needed to develop and apply advanced radiation-detection technologies to identify suspicious goods in shipping containers, for example. Finance experts are needed to investigate monetary red-flag indicators, such as complex transaction structures that conceal end-users of dual-use or military goods.
These workshops provided both, according to Manu Gupta, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate in the VCU School of Business.
"The Argonne National Laboratory grant represents a robust collaboration between VCU’s School of Business and the College of Engineering,” Gupta said. “The complementary skill sets of finance and nuclear engineering made this project a highly successful one. Despite the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to reach many countries in Africa by pivoting to online seminars."