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 Single-photon detector can count to 4
18.12.2017 | Duke University

nachricht New epidemic management system combats monkeypox outbreak in Nigeria
15.12.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Error-free into the Quantum Computer Age

A study carried out by an international team of researchers and published in the journal Physical Review X shows that ion-trap technologies available today are suitable for building large-scale quantum computers. The scientists introduce trapped-ion quantum error correction protocols that detect and correct processing errors.

In order to reach their full potential, today’s quantum computer prototypes have to meet specific criteria: First, they have to be made bigger, which means...

Im Focus: Search for planets with Carmenes successful

German and Spanish researchers plan, build and use modern spectrograph

Since 2016, German and Spanish researchers, among them scientists from the University of Göttingen, have been hunting for exoplanets with the “Carmenes”...

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

The body's street sweepers

18.12.2017 | Life Sciences

Fast flowing heat in layered material heterostructures

18.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

Life on the edge prepares plants for climate change

18.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>