European Commission Joint Research Centre Institute for Transuranium Elements
Site Management and Nuclear Safety
Tel.: +49 (0)7247-951-0 E-mail
The Nuclear Safeguards R&D group is involved in the development and improvement of analytical techniques with regard to the nuclear fuel cycle. These techniques are mainly applied in Safeguard laboratories but have also been adapted for infield use. Some of these techniques have also been developed and used for the detection of smuggled nuclear materials and their characterisation.
In the aftermath of the Gulf War, the capability of analytical chemistry to reveal ongoing undeclared nuclear activities by the analysis of environmental samples was demonstrated. Immediately, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) started the programme 93+2 based on field trials to verify the effectiveness of environmental sampling in routine nuclear inspections, with the result that some years ago this methodology has been implemented in the Additional Protocol as complement to the existing safeguards agreement. Euratom jointed to this investigation developing the programme High Performance Trace Analysis (HPTA).
In this framework, ITU played an important role actively participating in the sampling during the field trials for the creations of baseline data for different nuclear installation. At the same time, ITU implemented new techniques able to detect nuclear activities by the characterization of micro particles. It was the first civil laboratory in Europe to develop such technologies and entered in the Network of the Analytical Laboratory of IAEA for particle characterization. Even though, environmental sampling takes into account environmental samples as well as swipe samples, the attention was above all focused on particles stemming from swipe samples collected inside and outside nuclear facilities (mainly enrichment plants). The part 2, of the 93+2 programme focuses on wide monitoring environmental sampling which so far has not yet been implemented.
In the field of Nuclear Analyses there is an ever increasing drive for improved accuracy and detection limits. The aim of the Nuclear Safeguards R&D group is to develop and improve analytical techniques for the measurement of elemental and or isotopic compositions of samples, related to the nuclear fuel cycle. With this in mind there is a need for new measurement techniques and the refinement of existing techniques. These can then be applied to both new and existing applications.
The measurement techniques used and adapted are both DA (destructive analysis) and NDA (non-destructive techniques).
There is a wide range of instrumentation used, ranging from a robot preparing samples for MS (mass-spectrometry) to many different NDA type spectroscopic instruments. Generally, several techniques are applied for a given problem in order to maximise the information from a sample or as a means of validation of one technique against another.
Nuclear verification, disarmament and the prevention of illicit trafficking are fundamental issues for international security. Since November 1993, ITU has been implementing advanced techniques for "High Performance Trace Analysis" (HPTA) and Environmental Monitoring program (support to EURATOM Safeguards and IAEA). For these reasons ITU developed the Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS) method for analysis of uranium and plutonium in particles sampled in a broad range of nuclear safeguards contexts and was the first civil laboratory using SIMS for radioactive micro-particle analysis.
The aims of the particle analysis are to increase the probability to identify radioactive particles in the environment, to improve the detection of undeclared nuclear activities, to reduce measurement uncertainty (safeguarding of bulk handling facilities) and to develop an accurate and cost effective technique.
In order to exploit oxygen isotopic measurement by SIMS as a diagnostic tools in nuclear forensics, the magnitude and reproducibility of O-isotope instrumental mass discrimination for O-isotope standards in the SIMS laboratory at the ITU has been evaluated.
Tests for matrix-dependent discrimination effects on three different O-isotope standards with substantially different matrix compositions have been performed. The results were checked by an inter laboratory comparison of O-isotope discriminations with those obtained in the SIMS laboratory at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL, California, USA) on two standards.
In accordance with the tested methodology, O-isotope compositions were measured in three particulate uranium-oxide samples of nuclear-forensics interest.