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Sensitive Detection Method May Help Impede Illicit Nuclear Trafficking



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Sensitive Detection Method May Help Impede Illicit Nuclear Trafficking

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- According to the

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the greatest danger to

nuclear security comes from terrorists acquiring sufficient quantities

of plutonium or highly enriched uranium (HEU) to construct a crude

nuclear explosive device. The IAEA also notes that most cases of

illicit nuclear trafficking have involved gram-level quantities, which

can be challenging to detect with most inspection methods.

According to a new study appearing this week in the Journal of Applied

Physics, coupling commercially available spectral X-ray detectors with

a specialized algorithm can improve the detection of uranium and

plutonium in small, layered objects such as baggage. This approach

enhances the detection powers of X-ray imaging and may provide a new

tool to impede nuclear trafficking.

The study was conducted by a joint research team from the University

of Texas at Austin (UT) and the Department of Energy's Pacific

Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

"We first had to develop a computational model for how X-rays move

through materials and how they are detected so that we could predict

what an image will look like once the radiation passed through an

object," said UT's Mark Deinert, one of the authors on the paper.

"With that in hand, we applied an 'inverse algorithm,' varying the

composition of the object until the predicted image matched the

measured one. We also gave our algorithm additional details about

density and other factors-a process called 'regularization'- to

adaptively enhance its ability to discriminate materials."

The new system, Deinert said, expands upon techniques originally

developed for medical applications such as discerning between bone and

iodine contrast agent in an X-ray image. "We wanted to show that

spectrally sensitive detectors can be used to discriminate plutonium

and other high-atomic-number elements from multiple layers of other

materials using a single-view radiograph," said Andrew Gilbert, the

lead author on the paper and a doctoral student of Deinert's working

at PNNL. "In simulated radiographs, we were able to detect the

presence of plutonium with a mass resolution per unit area of at least

0.07 gram/centimeter squared; in other words, we can locate a sample

of plutonium with a thickness of only 0.036 millimeters."

Now that the inverse algorithm method has been shown to help X-rays

detect nuclear materials in luggage and other small objects, Deinert

said that his team will next expand the concept to improve detection

on a larger scale. "We plan to apply the algorithm to high-energy

X-ray systems that could be used for verification of arms-reduction

treaties," he said.

The article, "Non-invasive material discrimination using spectral

X-ray radiography" by A.J. Gilbert, B.S. McDonald, S.M. Robinson, K.D.

Jarman, T.A. White and M.R. Deinert is published in the Journal of

Applied Physics on April 15, 2014 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4870043). After that

date, it can be accessed at:

http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/jap/115/15/10.1063/1.4870043

ABOUT THE JOURNAL Journal of Applied Physics, published by the

American Institute of Physics, is an influential international journal

publishing significant new experimental and theoretical results of

applied physics research. See: http://jap.aip.org

More Information: Jason Socrates Bardi +1 240-535-4954

jbardi@aip.org @jasonbardi

Logo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130627/DC39790LOGO

SOURCE Journal of Applied Physics

-0- 04/15/2014

/Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130627/DC39790LOGO

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0000 04/15/2014 15:55:00 EDT http://www.prnewswire.com

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