Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Turning A Nuclear Spotlight On Illegal Weapons Material

Date:
October 28, 2006
Source:
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Summary:
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have demonstrated that they can cheaply, quickly, and accurately identify even subnanogram amounts of weapon-grade plutonium and uranium.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have demonstrated that they can cheaply, quickly and accurately identify even subnanogram amounts of weapon-grade plutonium and uranium. Their work was presented in September at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society.*

Worldwide, most nuclear facilities generate electricity or produce neutrons for peaceful research--but they also can create materials for nuclear weapons. International inspectors routinely tour such facilities, taking cloth wipe samples of equipment surfaces for forensic analysis of any potential weapon-grade materials in suspicious locations. In particular, they search for specific uranium or plutonium isotopes capable of setting off a nuclear explosion.

NIST chemists working at the NIST Center for Neutron Research have applied a highly sensitive technique called delayed neutron activation analysis to improve such efforts, the NIST and ORNL researchers report. The center includes a specially designed research neutron source, which bathes material samples with low-energy neutrons. Next, those samples rapidly go into a barrel-shaped instrument, embedded with neutron detectors, which precisely count the neutrons emitted over a short period of time. The neutron count acts as a unique signature of special nuclear material. In their study, the scientists used this technique to successfully identify trace amounts of uranium-235 and plutonium-239 in less than three minutes.

"We're emphasizing the technique now because world events have made it more critical to detect traces of nuclear materials, which is technically very challenging," says analytical chemist Richard Lindstrom, co-author of the ACS presentation. This tool also complements a variety of other sophisticated methods used by NIST researchers working on homeland security.

The low detection levels are due in part to the use of the NIST neutron source, which is particularly well designed for this task. The technique can detect weapon-grade material just four microns in diameter - less than a tenth the size of a human hair. The technique could be used to find subtle, lingering radioactive material in samples taken during inspection of trucks or cargo shipping containers, for instance. Beyond forensics, NIST uses the technique for measurements of isotopes in research and for industrial projects. The team is now working to automate the counting instrument and simplifying its operation for rapidly handling large batches of samples.

*R. M. Lindstrom, D.C. Glasgow and R.G. Downing. Trace fissile measurement by delayed neutron activation analysis at NIST. Presented at the 232nd ACS National Meeting, San Francisco, Calif., Sept 10, 2006.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Institute of Standards and Technology. "Turning A Nuclear Spotlight On Illegal Weapons Material." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061027183907.htm>.
National Institute of Standards and Technology. (2006, October 28). Turning A Nuclear Spotlight On Illegal Weapons Material. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061027183907.htm
National Institute of Standards and Technology. "Turning A Nuclear Spotlight On Illegal Weapons Material." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061027183907.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

AP (July 23, 2014) 'Ray' the robotic parking valet at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany lets travelers to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot before heading to the check-in desk. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Commercial aircraft deliveries rose seven percent at Boeing, prompting the aerospace company to boost full-year profit guidance- though quarterly revenues missed analyst estimates. Bobbi Rebell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Europe's Car Market on the Rebound?

Europe's Car Market on the Rebound?

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Daimler kicks off a round of second-quarter earnings results from Europe's top carmakers with a healthy set of numbers - prompting hopes that stronger sales in Europe will counter weakness in emerging markets. Hayley Platt reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

Reuters - US Online Video (July 22, 2014) Ten years after releasing its initial report, members of the 9/11 Commission warn of the "waning sense of urgency" in combating terrorists attacks. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins