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New Nuclear Forensics Capability at INL

The Radioisotope Mass Separator at the Idaho National Laboratory. Photo Credits: INL

The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) last month hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a newly operational radioisotope mass separator (RMS), a device that will improve the accuracy and precision of nuclear forensics analysis.

The RMS is co-sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Nuclear forensics supports nuclear smuggling investigations and also aids attribution of a nuclear terrorist event.

In the event of a nuclear attack, or when an adversary is caught smuggling nuclear materials, it is important to determine the material’s origin and the perpetrators. These signatures are discovered in the variations of radioactive elements in the material, or its “radioisotopes.”

Scientists can measure the composition of the material at the atomic level by using analytical standards and certified reference materials. The RMS produces these ultra-purified radioisotope comparison standards, which will help advance the nation’s nuclear forensics capabilities.

Accurately identifying the material’s source, based on reliable scientific methods, is crucial to ensuring successful prosecution of smugglers, finding and addressing breaches in nuclear security globally, and supporting appropriate national responses to perpetrators of nuclear terrorism.

Representatives from DNDO, FBI, Department of Energy, U.S. Air Force Technical Applications Center, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology attended the ceremony.

Source: DHS, adapted.

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