April 26, 2024
Journal Article

Examining the Potential for Detecting Simultaneous Noble Gas and Aerosol Samples in the International Monitoring System Radionuclide Network


The purpose of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is to end nuclear explosions. The Preparatory Commission for the CTBT Organization is developing the International Monitoring System (IMS) that includes a global network of at 80 stations to monitor for airborne radionuclides upon entry into force of the CTBT. All 80 radionuclide stations will monitor for particulate radionuclides and at least half of the stations will monitor for radioxenon concentrations. The airborne radionuclide monitoring is an important verification technology both for the detection of a radionuclide release and in the determination of whether the release event originates from a nuclear explosion as opposed to an industrial use of nuclear materials. Nuclear power plants and many medical isotope production facilities release radioxenon into the atmosphere. Low levels of a few particulate isotopes, such as iodine, may also be released. Detections of multiple isotopes are useful for screening the radionuclide samples with detectable concentrations collected for the IMS for relevance to the Treaty. This paper examines the anticipated joint detections in the IMS of noble gas and particulate isotopes from underground explosions where breaches in the underground containment vents from low levels to up to 1% of the radionuclide inventory of the resulting fission products to the atmosphere. Detection probabilities are based on 844 simulated release events spaced out at 17 release locations and one year in time. Six different release (venting) scenarios, including two fractionated scenarios, were analyzed. When ranked by detection probability, 11 particulate isotopes and one noble gas isotope (133Xe) appear in the top 20 isotopes for all six release scenarios. Using the 11 particulate isotopes and the one noble gas isotope, the IMS has the nearly the same detection probability as when 45 particulate and 4 noble gas isotopes are used. Thus, a limited list of relevant radionuclides may be sufficient for treaty verification purposes. The probability that at least one particulate and at least one radioxenon isotope would be detected in the IMS from the release events ranged from 0.15 to 0.86 depending on the release scenario, with higher probabilities associated with release events using larger release magnitudes.

Published: April 26, 2024


Eslinger P.W., J.L. Burnett, J.D. Lowrey, B.D. Milbrath, and R.S. Sarathi. 2024. Examining the Potential for Detecting Simultaneous Noble Gas and Aerosol Samples in the International Monitoring System Radionuclide Network. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 272. PNNL-SA-187810. doi:10.1016/j.jenvrad.2023.107349