Young people with scientific knowledge are vital to a future world in which nuclear weapons are contained and, ultimately, eliminated. To solve global problems related to these weapons, collaboration between the countries with the highest number of weapons – the United States and Russia – is essential. The Virtual Science Challenge is designed to enhance mutual understanding between Russian and U.S. high school students through science collaboration for a more secure and safer future.

Using a dedicated and secure online learning and collaboration environment, high school students and teachers investigate the control of nuclear fuel, which, if not managed properly, could cause a widespread release of radiation or be used in the development of nuclear weapons. The goals of the program are to:

  • Develop a science education community of U.S and Russian teachers and high school students
  • Help develop and enhance students’ scientific knowledge, critical thinking and scientific reasoning abilities, and presentation skills
  • Promote cross-cultural cooperation in the sciences among students and teachers in the United States and Russia
  • Guide students in a scientific investigation of real-world solutions for the safe and secure storage and management of nuclear waste and spent nuclear fuel

Through online workshops, E-learning modules, and educational materials, students become familiar with the science and technology of nuclear weapons, nuclear reactors, the nuclear fuel cycle, and the risks posed by enriched uranium and plutonium.

Next, students focus on options for handling spent nuclear fuel, which requires scientific prowess, cross-cultural understanding and cooperation. Each team will select a different country to investigate. This investigation will require students to research not only the scientific options available, but also the risks that different technologies pose for the proliferation of nuclear materials, the geology of the countries they study, and public and political opinions about various solutions.

At the final stage, all teams will come together and present their findings and proposed solutions in the Virtual Science Fair, in a format of their choosing.

The problem of spent fuel management is global and urgently needs to be solved.

Working together, students from Russia and the United States can discover new ideas and new ways to think about the issue. Tackling a real-world scientific problem enhances students’ motivation to study and deepen their scientific knowledge.