Rapid imaging of special nuclear materials for nuclear nonproliferation and terrorism prevention

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Science Advances  19 May 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 21, eabg3032
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abg3032


We introduce a neutron-gamma emission tomography (NGET) technique for rapid detection, three-dimensional imaging, and characterization of special nuclear materials like weapons-grade plutonium and uranium. The technique is adapted from fundamental nuclear physics research and represents a previously unexplored approach to the detection and imaging of small quantities of these materials. The method is demonstrated on a radiation portal monitor prototype system based on fast organic scintillators, measuring the characteristic fast time and energy correlations between particles emitted in nuclear fission processes. The use of these correlations in real time in conjunction with modern machine learning techniques provides unprecedented imaging efficiency and high spatial resolution. This imaging modality addresses global security threats from terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It also provides enhanced capabilities for addressing different nuclear accident scenarios and for environmental radiological surveying.

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