COuntering Nuclear Terrorism

 
 

One of my two main research interests in my Applied Nuclear Physics career involves Homeland Security and Nuclear Nonproliferation. For both Radiological Dispersal Devices, “Dirty Bombs”, and Nuclear Weapons, Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) and Weapons Grade Plutonium (WGPu) represent a significant terrorist threat. Each has its particular set of challenges and advantages, both in the construction and deployment of the Nuclear Devices, and on the end I work, the detection of them. My research to solve these two problems is as follows:

Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) - My research regarding Highly Enriched Uranium is primarily focused on Active Interrogation techniques.









The concept of Active Interrogation uses an interrogation radiation source (such as x-rays or Neutrons). This is directed at a suspect cargo container, much like an x-ray, but instead on detecting differences in densities, it causes the cargo to emit a specific radiation signature, much like a fingerprint.








Weapons Grade Plutonium (WGPu) - For Weapons Grade Plutonium, my research is focused on passive techniques. Because WGPu contains a few percent 240Pu (a radioactive contaminant), a mass of WGPu emits neutrons. The current “gold standard” for the detectors used to detect these neutrons use 3He, which is one of the rarest substance on Earth, and is responsible for a national crisis in supply. To replace these detectors, I have developed a new class of detectors utilizing the Cherenkov Effect.












Instead of using 3He, they use H2O, regular water, the most abundant substance on Earth. At a fraction of the cost, these detectors have been proven to be just a sensitive as its 3He counterpart. This technology has been provisionally patented with the USPTO.

 

Homeland Security - Applied Nuclear Physics

Photo Courtesy DOE (LLNL)

My first Water Based Neutron Detector prototype (and its worked!)

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Interrogation Neutron Source

(2nd Generation Fusor)