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J. S. Feener and W. S. Charlton, "Preliminary Results of Nuclear Fluorescence Imaging of Alpha and Beta Emitting Sources," Advancements in Nuclear Instrumentation Measurement Methods and their Applications 3rd Conference, Marseille, France, 23-27 June 2013.


The preliminary results from a series of nuclear fluorescence imaging experiments using a variety of radioactive sources and shielding are given. These experiments were done as part of a proof of concept to determine if nuclear fluorescence imaging could be used as a safeguards measurements tool or for nuclear warhead verification for nuclear arms control treaties such as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. An off-the-shelf Princeton Instruments charged coupled device camera system was used to image the emission of fluorescence photons from the de-excitation of nitrogen molecules in air that have been excited by ionizing radiation. The fluorescence emissions are primarily in the near ultraviolet range; between the wavelengths of 300 and 400 nm. Fluorescent imaging techniques are currently being investigated in a number of applications. A French research team has successfully demonstrated this concept for remote imaging of alpha contamination. It has also been shown that the phenomenon can be seen through translucent materials and that alpha radiation can be seen in the presence of large gamma backgrounds. Additionally, fluorescence telescopes and satellites utilize the de-excitation of nitrogen molecules to observe cosmic ray showers in the atmosphere. In cosmic ray shower detection, electrons are the main contributor to the excitation of the of nitrogen molecules in air. The experiments presented in this paper were designed to determine if the imaging system could observe beta emitting sources, differentiate between beta emitters and alpha emitting materials such as uranium oxide and uranium metal, and to further investigate the phenomenon through translucent and non-translucent materials. The initial results show that differentiation can be made between beta and alpha emitting sources and that the device can observe the phenomenon through very thin non-transparent material. Additionally, information is given on the det- ction of the fluorescent photons through translucent materials. Camera images, analysis, and results of the initial laboratory experiments are presented.

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Associated Project(s):

  • Fluorescence Imaging for Nuclear Arms Control Verification

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