Advanced Materials

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Characterization

Nuclear Forensics


This facility is comprised of a series of “state of the art” cleanrooms for sample chemistry ranging from class 10,000 (Iso 5) to Class 100 (Iso 3).

Illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials has been on the rise since the first seizures in the early 1990s. This increase in material trafficking combined with terrorist activities to create “dirty bombs” has made the field of nuclear forensic analysis an emerging discipline. Most of the initial work was performed independently, with some collaboration by national and international laboratories. Today, however, national and international security agencies are tasked to create partnerships amongst the laboratories for the non-proliferation and safeguarding of nuclear materials. We have had a long history of collecting, analyzing, as well as archiving nuclear attribution data. Recently, ORNL has invested in a new Ultra-Trace Forensic Center to further research in the field of nuclear forensics. The Nuclear Analytical Chemistry and Isotopics Laboratory (NACIL) Group within Chemical Science Division (CSD) is working to improve analytical instrumentation and methodologies, particularly in the areas of precision, and improved sensitivity. Several areas of research currently being conducted include; 1) The production of 233Pa from 232Th by activation within the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) to improve highly enriched uranium (HEU) age dating, 2) The determination of a comprehensive listing of trace metal impurities in uranium materials using High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Isotope Dilution Mass Spectrometry (IDMS) to decrease analysis uncertainty, and 3) The analysis of graphite cores to determine reactor history and use.

 

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