The National Science Foundation (NSF) has chosen a project proposed by NSSPI faculty member, Dr. Sunil Chirayath, along with Dr. David Boyle, NSSPI Deputy Director, and Dr. Charles M. Folden, III, of the TAMU Cyclotron Institute, to receive an award under the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) Academic Research Initiative. The award in the amount of $378,464 is for the first year of a multi-year project to assess whether or not it is possible to reliably predict and measure a unique, intrinsic physical signature in weapons-grade plutonium produced in reactors of foreign nuclear fuel cycles. The proposal received the NSF’s top recommendation ranking.
Researchers will use both computational and experimental methods to study plutonium resulting from fast breeder reactor depleted uranium blankets and CANDU-type reactor natural uranium fuel to define its unique, identifying characteristics. Understanding the details of a potentially unique “fingerprint” would contribute to nuclear forensics activities involved in determining the source of recovered smuggled plutonium that could have been used to produce a weapon, as well as post-weapon-detonation analyses, and greatly enhance the DNDO’s global nuclear detection architecture.
The NSF-DNDO Academic Research Initiative program invests in novel cross-cutting research to improve the nation’s ability to prevent and respond to nuclear or radiological threats.