novel applications of nuclear techniques



novel applications of nuclear techniques
SEPTEMBER 23th, 2002
Prepared by G. Viesti
Version 1.0, Sept 2, 2002
This paper contains a list of relevant documents, available on INTERNET, interesting for a general
introduction to the threat materials to make evidence for applications of nuclear techniques.
The definition of a realistic Research and Development Program in the field of detection of threat
materials by using nuclear techniques will need some well defined steps:
1) Define specific application scenarios, possibly related to the priorities mentioned in the
general risk analysis presented in some documents.
2) Compare the capability of nuclear techniques with those of other available technologies.
3) Define the existing know-how of the participating groups and identify the topics to be
included in future R&D programs.
4) Prepare future demonstration tests.
5) Prepare possibly cost/benefit analysis.
Point 3) has to be discussed in the light of the on-going national R&D programs, if any, and the
capabilities (infrastructures & manpower) of the participating groups.
Part of the information included here is only useful as a general background, but will have little
impact on the definition of a realistic R&D program. Nevertheless, I found interesting to collect
information that in all cases documents the role of nuclear techniques in specific fields.
Comments from the participating groups are welcome and will help to prepare revised versions of
this paper.
Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism
prepared by the Committee on Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism, National
Research Council (USA)
Available in electronic form: (
Workshop on the Role of the Nuclear Physics Research Community in Combating Terrorism
organized by the Division of Nuclear Physics, Office of Science, Department of Energy
Contamination of the US Postal System by Bio-Terrorists.
1) US Postal Service Preparedness Plan (
2) GAO-02-365 document: Diffuse Security Threats (
3) IBA Press Release (
Sanitization of anthrax contaminated MAIL by using commercially available e-beam systems. Dose
needed is 40-100 kGy. Two facilities are running in US using available irradiation systems not
specifically designed for MAIL. GAO identifies need of further work in the field of:
a) Radiobiology (dose needed to kill different bio-weapons)
b) Radiation damage to materials in MAIL
c) Design optimisation for specific sources of radiation for MAIL sanitization, including X-ray
Attack with chemical warfare agents to sensitive points (i.e. underground transport systems) is a
well known possibility after the Tokyo fact.
The attack to the Tokyo sub-way system.
For a general discussion see:
Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism
(2002) Chapter 4.
See also:
Chemical and Biological Terrorism (
Type of Chemical warfare agents:
Technologies used to detect CWA:
1) Large quantities as in abandoned ammunitions or UXO:
a) neutron interrogation by using thermal neutron. Typical example is PINS
(Portable Isotopic Neutron-Spectroscopy Chemical Assay System) see
b) neutron interrogation by using fast neutrons. Typical example is PELAN
c) Applications: see
2) For NBC military technologies useful to detect trace vapours in air see:
3) The list of technologies proposed for counter-terrorism applications are discussed in
Chemical and Biological Terrorism, chapter 4.
Recommendations in US point to the development of a new generation of sensor systems, capable
of detecting CWA (as well as HE). Sensors and sensor networks have to be specifically designed to
be easily fielded. Special attention has to be devoted to systems design for monitoring water
distribution systems as well as for controlling air conditioning systems in sensitive buildings.
Neutron technologies are certainly useful in non-destructive assays of sizeable quantities i.e. for
inspection of sealed containers (as in the case of UXO) to determine the inner content.
The low concentration of agents in water or air during an attack makes difficult/impossible the use
of neutrons. On the other hand, military available technologies are pointed to the identification of a
number of well known CWA but the chemicals that can be used for contamination are several, some
of them are common commercial materials.
Mass spectrometers are already used in the form of Ion Mobility Spectrometers. Some different
type of time-of-flight spectrometers have been also proposed (see
Due to the need of multi-elemental analysis because of the variety of chemicals agents, the
possibility of using X-rays techniques with suitable concentrators/filters for on-line scanning has to
be investigated.
Moreover, the use of IMS or other commercially available detection systems in urban areas would
certainly need to study possible interference with “common”, i.e. non CWA, pollution in air or
water due to chemical products normally used. Consequently, campaigns for the determination of
the “background” have to be performed, before fielding any type of sensor for detecting CWA.
Networking of sensor systems is of primary interest.
Respect to the commercially available neutron system for non-destructive assays (as PINS or
PELAN), possible R&D work should be oriented in the field of:
a) neutron imaging: the development of portable neutron generator with associated particle
detector systems;
b) development of new gamma-ray detectors
c) integrated high rate front-end electronics
d) software for automated data analysis.
General discussion see:
Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism
(2002) Chapter 4.
See also:
"Commercial Systems for the Direct Detection of Explosives (for Explosive Ordnance
Disposal Tasks)" ExploStudy, Final Report 17/2/2001
by C. Bruschini (
For airport security:
Air Passenger Security Screening (1996 edition): see discussion on the use of the X-ray
imaging technologies for the personal screening of airport passengers.
Example of low-dose X-ray scanning of passengers.
For port security: GAO-02-993T Port Security announces that 20 gamma-ray imaging
systems have been deployed to inspect cargos
General discussion see:
Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism (2002)
Chapter 2. This document is available as separate pdf file.
See also:
The A. Schaper Document (
The Harvard Document (May 2002)
The Nuclear Threat Initiative Home Page
The threats from nuclear or “radiological” terrorism are grouped in 3 categories:
1) Stolen Nuclear Weapons
2) Improvised Nuclear Devices (IND) made from Special Nuclear Materials (SNM) (Pu
or highly enriched uranium HEU).
3) Attacks on nuclear reactors, on nuclear waste sites or attacks with “radiological”
devices (i.e. dirty bombs).
The interest for an R&D program might by focussed on the following points:
a) Development of sensors and sensor network for the detection and identification of SNM.
This is an high priority task in the US documents and is related not only to the development of
portals for identification of radioactive material in general in the port of entry, but also the
possibility of developing local intelligence that allows automated data analysis from portals and
networking between local intelligences. Moreover, the identification of SNM might require also
“active” interrogation that requires neutron and/or gamma sources and/or accelerators.
b) Detection of dirty bombs is not fully considered in the documents, because of the limited
number of victims expected from such event. Nevertheless, the monitoring of the radiation
levels in special areas or the monitoring of the radiation levels in water distribution systems
or air conditioning systems might be important to prevent such events. In this case, the
major problems are related not only to the sensitivity of the detectors, but also to the
possibility of distinguish between a terrorist action from possible changes of the radiation
levels due to other effects.
The status of the current technologies available for custom inspections are available within
documentation of the ITRAP (Illicit Trafficking Radiation Detection Assessment Program
performed during the years 1997-2000 under the aegis of IAEA, WCO (World Custom
Organization) and IAEA. (
The primary requirements were:
a) Easy of use for non-technical users
b) Gamma analysis capability in search mode
c) Neutron detection capability
d) Reliable Nuclide Identification for shielded and unshielded gamma sources
e) Small and reliable
f) Reasonable low price.
The development of instruments in this field requires a general development of detector
technologies. In particular the development of high resolution gamma ray detector capable of
approaching at room temperature the typical energy resolution of the HPGe detectors is believed to
be a very important task. In this respect CZT and HgI detectors have been proposed.
In the field of the neutron detection, there is the need of new technologies to replace the 3He and
BF3 proportional counters. This is for cost problems, as well as for the use in aircraft. In the latter
case, high pressure detectors are not usable. Li-glass and glass fibers have been proposed.
The detector development might be certainly one of the field for the definition of a reliable
Research Project.
Description of the instruments see:

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