The Great Unknownium Debate

MON, 03/17/2014 - 4:00PM TO 5:00PM
Spring 2014 Colloquium Series

The US is heavily invested in the detection and interdiction of nuclear materials. Radiation monitoring at international border crossings and security stations at international ports of entry are a key defense in this area. So what happens if material is interdicted? The first priority is assuring that the immediate threat of the material is neutralized. The next question is what type of material is it and where did it come from? Nuclear forensics is the term used to describe the investigation of the “unknownium” to find evidence of its type, source and trafficking history.

Nuclear reactors produce plutonium as they operate. This plutonium could conceivably be extracted from used fuel and used for weapons. In fact, over half of the estimated world inventory of plutonium is present in the form of used fuel from reactors. There are a
number of different reactor types in use throughout the world today. Each of these reactors produce plutonium with an isotopic distribution that reflects specific operating parameters of the reactor including fuel enrichment, power density, fuel type and geometry, etc. The great debate is whether or not the differences between reactor types are significant enough and is there sufficient data to establish a unique signature for reactor types.

This presentation introduces the concepts discussed above and reviews the existing data for used fuels and programmatic efforts to establish a method for classifying reactor types in the investigation of “unknownium”.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Michaele (Mikey) Brady Raap is a chief engineer with the Nuclear Systems Design, Engineering & Analysis Group within the National Security Directorate at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington. She has more than 25 years of experience in nuclear and criticality safety for plutonium processing and spent fuel systems including the design and review of benchmark experiments, safety assessments at operating facilities and integrating safety-in-design.

Dr. Brady Raap has had extensive involvement with international and national nuclear organizations. She has been the Chair of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD / NEA) Nuclear Energy Agency, Expert Group on Burnup Credit Criticality for over 20 years. She has been a key contributor to Technical Coordination Meetings organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) related to burnup credit. Dr. Brady Raap is an active member of multiple American National Standards Institute / American Nuclear Society (ANSI/ANS) Working Groups and in International Standards Organization (ISO) standards development activities. She is currently the chairman of the OECD/NEA Working Party on Nuclear Criticality Safety (WPNCS) and a member of the DOE Nuclear Criticality Safety Support Group (CSSG).

Dr. Brady Raap has been an active member of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) since joining in 1985 and has held many leadership positions for ANS including the chairmanship of both the Reactor Physics and Nuclear Criticality Safety Divisions. She has served two terms on the ANS Board of Directors and as the Treasurer (2011-2013). Dr. Brady Raap currently the Vice-President/President-Elect (2013-2014) and will assume the role of President of the ANS in June 2014.