ORNL working to strengthen seals for nuclear containers

ORNL working to strengthen seals for nuclear containers

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Dec. 19, 2013 – The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has developed a technology leading to more secure seals on containers filled with nuclear material.

The technology uses a light source of entangled photons to verify the continuity of a fiber-based seal. Entanglement is a feature of quantum physics that describes how two spatially disparate systems exhibit strong correlations in otherwise independent behaviors.

“These twin photons have correlations in their physical properties that we use to verify if a seal is operating correctly,” said Travis Humble, a senior scientist in ORNL’s Computer Science and Mathematics Division. “If the photons are not correlated, then we know something happened to destroy their relationship and this indicates tampering.”

The technology could enhance nuclear inspectors’ ability to confirm whether a container has been compromised.

“Current seal technology does not have a way to tell if a transmitted signal is the same as the received signal,” Humble said. “This represents a vulnerability in the seal that could be exploited for tampering. Our hope is to close that vulnerability.”

This research is funded under a Work for Others agreement with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov <http://science.energy.gov/>.