Some 40 scientists and technicians from around the world will descend on Jordan in November to take part in a simulated on-site inspection of a suspected nuclear test site on the banks of the Dead Sea.
Playing the part of inspectors, the experts will have access to a wide range of sensor technologies to look for signs of whether a nuclear explosion has taken place. At the same time, other role-players representing the state under inspection will try to put them off their scent.
The aim of this elaborate exercise, as science writer Edwin Cartlidge explains in this month's Physics World, is to prepare for the on-site inspections foreseen under the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Opened for signature in 1996, this agreement bans all signatory nations from carrying out nuclear tests anywhere on Earth or in space.
The CTBT has been signed by more than 180 nations to date, but to become legally binding all 44 countries that possessed nuclear technology in 1996 must sign it and then ratify it, which typically means that their parliaments must approve it in a vote. However, eight of those countries, including North Korea and the US, have still to do so.
Until the CTBT gets the backing of all the relevant nations, scientists cannot perform the final and crucial part of the verification regime specified in the treaty: on-site inspection, which would be invoked following initial evidence of any nuclear testing provided by a global network of sensors known as the International Monitoring System (IMS).
In the article, Cartlidge explains in more detail the role that the IMS's 279 facilities currently play in detecting four types of physical phenomena than can provide evidence of a nuclear explosion having taken place.
Data produced by measuring these phenomena – seismic waves, radioactive nuclei, underwater sound waves and infrasonic waves – are continually sent in near real-time to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna, Austria, where they are pieced together and used to look for any suspicious or unnatural events.
"Unfortunately, the evidence from the IMS is not always enough to convince signatories of the CTBT that a nuclear test has taken place. The network did not, for example, detect any radionuclides following a test North Korea carried out in 2009, and it was nearly two months before stations in Japan and Russia picked up radioactive noble gases after [North Korea's] 2013 test," Cartlidge writes.
Once the experts arrive at the roughly 1000 km2 of mountainous desert and scrubland in Jordan, they will have access to almost all of the sensor technologies available to them under the terms of the CTBT, including ultraviolet light to search for vehicle tracks in the dirt, infrared radiation to hunt down the exact point of any possible explosion, and noble-gas detection systems to measure the telltale gases xenon and argon.
"While the treaty remains on hold, CTBTO scientists will continue to refine and test their monitoring techniques, ensuring that they are as ready as they can be should they finally be called upon to investigate what could be the explosion of a real nuclear weapon. "The exercise in Jordan should provide a stern test of that preparedness," Cartlidge concludes.
Also in this issue:
Please mention Physics World as the source of these items and, if publishing online, please include a hyperlink to: http://physicsworld.com
Notes for editors:
1. Physics World is the international monthly magazine published by the Institute of Physics. For further information or details of its editorial programme, please contact the editor, Dr Matin Durrani, tel +44 (0)117 930 1002. The magazine's website physicsworld.com is updated regularly and contains daily physics news and regular audio and video content. Visit http://physicsworld.com.
2. For copies of the articles reviewed here contact Mike Bishop, IOP Publishing Senior Press Officer, tel: +44 (0)11 7930 1032, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society. We are a charitable organisation with a worldwide membership of more than 50,000, working together to advance physics education, research and application.
We engage with policymakers and the general public to develop awareness and understanding of the value of physics and, through IOP Publishing, we are world leaders in professional scientific communications.
In September 2013, we launched our first fundraising campaign. Our campaign, Opportunity Physics, offers you the chance to support the work that we do.
Michael Bishop | Eurek Alert!
NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts
28.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Researchers create artificial materials atom-by-atom
28.03.2017 | Aalto University
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
29.03.2017 | Trade Fair News
28.03.2017 | Life Sciences
28.03.2017 | Information Technology