Universities Partner with Los Alamos for a Unique Hands-On Experience

Faculty, students, and post-docs from five universities had the chance to measure radiation signatures from Category I Special Nuclear Material (SNM) at the Device Assembly Facility (DAF) at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) as part of a two-week measurement campaign organized by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and North Carolina State University. This unique activity was organized on behalf of the Consortium for Nonproliferation Enabling Capabilities (CNEC) and Consortium for Verification Technology (CVT) with support from DNN’s Office of Research and Development (R&D).

The DAF is home to the National Criticality Experiments Research Center (NCERC), which is operated by Los Alamos. The facility maintains a substantial SNM inventory and expertise to support a variety of nuclear security missions requiring hands-on access to weapons-grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) in numerous configurations.

In July 2016, consortium participants from the University of Michigan, North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T, Princeton, and the University of Illinois used different radiation detection systems (gamma spectroscopy, fast-neutron time-correlation, gamma scatter and pinhole aperture imaging, dual neutron-gamma scatter imaging, and neutron coded aperture imaging) to measure kilogram quantities of uranium, plutonium, and other fissile materials in bare, shielded and/or reflected (surrounded with materials that may reflect neutrons back into the SNM) configurations.

This is the second year that LANL has partnered with CNEC and CVT to provide this unique research and training opportunity on SNM detection and analysis. Results from the measurement campaign held in summer 2015 were presented at the 2016 Institute for Nuclear Materials Management Annual Meeting in Atlanta. The consortia plan to publish results from 2016’s measurements as well.

A separate DAF tour in July 2016 for several leaders of the new Nuclear Science and Security Consortium (NSSC) focused on exploring collaboration possibilities for critical nuclear data validation experiments. The NSSC is the third university consortium supported by DNN R&D.