Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sandia computer simulation monitors traffic in contraband nuclear material

22.01.2007
Unique procedure arouses United Nations interest

A Sandia National Laboratories researcher has developed a simulation program designed to track the illicit trade in fissile and nonfissile radiological material well enough to predict who is building the next nuclear weapon and where they are doing it.

"By using a cluster analysis algorithm coded into a program," says Sandia researcher David York. "I evaluated those traffic patterns and routes in which thefts, seizures, and destinations of materials were reported. Data from these examinations were enough to allow me to retrospectively depict the A. Q. Kahn network before it was uncovered."

Kahn is a Pakistani scientist linked to the illicit proliferation of nuclear technical knowledge. Cluster analyses link data of common place, time, or material. Testing a computer simulation on a known past event is one accepted means of establishing the program's validity.

Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration laboratory.

In the Kahn analysis, York generated an analysis of networked routes indicative of a nuclear trafficking scheme between countries. In several verified incidents, inspectors seized uranium enriched to 80 percent, as well as dual-use items indicative of small-scale development of crude nuclear devices.

In the study, York collected and collated data from 800 open-source incidents from 1992 to the present, along with the movement of dual-use items like beryllium and zirconium. He plotted the incidents on a global information system (GIS) software platform. He came up with a network of countries and routes between countries indicative of an illicit nuclear and radiological trafficking scheme.

"The number of incidents and the quantity and quality of material seized is disturbing," York says, "particularly because this may represent a small percentage of the actual amount of material being trafficked."

The situation may be worse than it appears because much information about nuclear material traffic is classified, York says, to prevent embarrassment to countries through which a nuclear weapon or the materials to fabricate a weapon may have passed.

York presented his results in October at the International Safeguards Conference sponsored by the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria. He has also been invited to present his methods and conclusions to the European Union's Illicit Trafficking Working Group at the June meeting of the IAEA.

How does the method work? "One begins by conducting cluster analyses on the GIS platform for material or activity similar to the incident in question. This gives the analyst an idea of corridors used by potential smugglers. It also indicates where the material might have come from and where it is," says York. "If the trafficker has only a certain amount of time to reach a destination and you have that information, one can ask what is the shortest route from point A to point B, or find major highways needed to accommodate a large shipment."

For the tool to be effective, "Enough information must be collected under a cooperative international framework," York says. "Then info must be analyzed to separate patterns from noise, essentially creating intelligence."

Nation-states that reuse nuclear fuel through reprocessing can create and ship dangerous materials that previously were confined to the more industrialized world.

"We're trying to develop a market niche for this kind of tracking program," says Sandia manager Gary Rochau, "and I think we're ahead of everyone's headlights."

The method can be used to track other materials, such as drugs. "We have a lot of interest from a lot of agencies," says Rochau.

Trafficking may be engaged in by amateur smugglers trying to feed their families in a post-Soviet era. It may also be practiced by those involved in organized crime who find a lucrative market in moving illicit materials, and by terrorists interested in the potential devastation and psychological effects of the use of nuclear materials.

York developed the program as part of his master's thesis while a student intern at Sandia.

Neal Singer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.sandia.gov
http://www.sandia.gov/news/resources/releases/2007/traffickingnm.html

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Switchable DNA mini-machines store information
26.06.2017 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht Equipping form with function
23.06.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement

26.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold

26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Switchable DNA mini-machines store information

26.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>