Skip to Main Content U.S. Department of Energy
PNNL News Central

Plutonium signatures discovery capability launched at PNNL

News Brief

April 17, 2017 Share This!

  • New equipment that will enable scientists to determine subtle differences in plutonium processing products was unveiled before Domestic Nuclear Detection Office sponsors.

  • PNNL, DNDO and the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest Site Office officials launch the new nuclear forensics capability which resides at PNNL.

1 of 1

RICHLAND, Wash. — Rare capabilities at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are being enlisted in the fight to prevent threats from those who might steal nuclear material.

Plutonium in weapons usable forms can be produced through various processes. By replicating some of these different conversion processes in a specialized research facility, nuclear scientists can then characterize subtle differences in the resulting material. The differences, called signatures, are a due to the varied means of processing plutonium and can be used by the government to trace the material to where it was produced.

After analyzing small samples, PNNL will create a database of signatures related to each process for the Department of Homeland Security's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office. The U.S. could then use the database to use to evaluate any plutonium that may be confiscated from smugglers.

More information is available in this DHS blog post.

Tags: Computational Science, National Security, Nuclear Nonproliferation, Homeland Security

PNNL LogoPacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on signature capabilities in chemistry, earth sciences, and data analytics to advance scientific discovery and create solutions to the nation's toughest challenges in energy resiliency and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

News Center


Additional Resources