Title: Nuclear Forensics Investigations with a Focus on Plutonium (invited talk)
Citation: Proceedings of the Conference vol. UCRL-PROC-222342 p. 63
Publisher: U.S. Department of Energy
Publication Year: 2006
JRC N°: JRC35657
URI: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC35657
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Since the beginning of the 1990’s when the first seizures of nuclear material were reported, IAEA has recorded over 200 cases of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials. The number of nuclear material seizures has decreased drastically from the record year of 1994 when 45 seizures were recorded to about 10 seizures per year at the present. However, the issue continues to attract public attention and is a reason for concern due to the hazard associated with such a materials. The radiological hazard arises from inappropriate handling, transport or storage, and even more serious concerns arise if considered in a terrorist context. Nuclear material can either be used in a radiological dispersal device, so-called “dirty bomb” or - if available in sufficient quantity and quality - in nuclear explosive devices. Once illicitly trafficked nuclear material has been intercepted, the following questions are to be addressed: What was its intended use? Where is its origin and who was its last legal owner? Especially the origin is of prime importance in order to close the gaps and improve the physical protection at the sites where the theft or diversion occurred. The analytical strategy is following a step-by-step approach, where based on actual findings the next step is defined and performed. Analytical methods adapted from nuclear safeguards serve as a basis in nuclear forensic analysis. However, it was soon noticed that they were not sufficient to provide answers to all the questions. Therefore, dedicated nuclear forensic methodology has been developed. This approach combines methods used in nuclear fuel cycle, materials research and environmental studies, including radiometric and mass spectrometric techniques as well as electron microscopy. The conclusions from such investigations need to be supported by reference data whenever possible. The Institute for Transuranium Elements (ITU) has been involved nuclear forensics research since the beginning. During the last ten years, methods for the age determination of U and Pu, the geolocation of natural U, and the determination of the reactor type from the Pu isotopic composition have been developed. In addition to that some 30 samples originating from real seizures of nuclear material have been analyzed. In this paper, an overview is given on the methodologies used, on the past and on-going developments and on the experience gathered. Some selected examples shall illustrate the challenges and the complexity associated with this work.
JRC Directorate:Nuclear Safety and Security

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