M.W. Swinney, C.M. Folden III, R.J. Ellis, and S.S. Chirayath, “Experimental and Computational Forensics Characterization of Weapons-grade Plutonium Produced in a Fast Reactor Neutron Environment”, Nuclear Technology, 197, 1 (2017).
A terrorist attack using an improvised nuclear device is one of the most serious dangers facing the United States. The work presented here is part of an effort to improve nuclear deterrence by developing a methodology to attribute weapons-grade plutonium to a source reactor by measuring the intrinsic physical characteristics of the interdicted plutonium. In order to demonstrate the developed methodology, plutonium samples were produced from depleted uranium dioxide (DUO2) surrogates irradiated in a fast-neutron environment. In order to replicate the neutron flux in a fast-neutron-spectrum reactor and obtain experimental samples emulating weapons-grade plutonium produced in the blanket of a fast breeder reactor, DUO2 samples were placed in a gadolinium sheath and irradiated in the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.