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Retrospective Imaging and Characterization of Nuclear Material

Hayes, Robert B.*; Sholom, Sergey

doi: 10.1097/HP.0000000000000680

Modern techniques for detection of covert nuclear material requires some combination of real time measurement and/or sampling of the material. More common is real time measurement of the ionizing emission caused by radioactive decay or through the materials measured in response to external interrogation radiation. One can expose the suspect material with various radiation types, including high energy photons such as x rays or with larger particles such as neutrons and muons, to obtain images or measure nuclear reactions induced in the material. Stand-off detection using imaging modalities similar to those in the medical field can be accomplished, or simple collimated detectors can be used to localize radioactive materials. In all such cases, the common feature is that some or all of the nuclear materials have to be present for the measurement, which makes sense; as one might ask, “How you can measure something that is not there?” The current work and results show how to do exactly that: characterize nuclear materials after they have been removed from an area leaving no chemical trace. This new approach is demonstrated to be fully capable of providing both previous source spatial distribution and emission energy grouping. The technique uses magnetic resonance for organic insulators and/or luminescence techniques on ubiquitous refractory materials similar in theory to the way the nuclear industry carries out worker personnel dosimetry. Spatial information is obtained by acquiring gridded samples for dosimetric measurements, while energy information comes through dose depth profile results that are functions of the incident radiation energies.

*North Carolina State University, Nuclear Engineering Department, 2500 Stinson Dr., Raleigh, NC 27695-7909; †Oklahoma State University, Physics Department, 1110 S. Innovation Way Dr., Stillwater, OK 74074.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

For correspondence contact: Robert B. Hayes, Raleigh, NC, or email at

(Manuscript accepted 6 March 2017)

© 2017 by the Health Physics Society