SITIS Archives - Topic Details
Program:  SBIR
Topic Num:  DTRA07-003 (DTRA)
Title:  Active Interrogation for Special Nuclear Materials (SNM) Detection
Research & Technical Areas:  Nuclear Technology

Acquisition Program:  
  Objective:  To extend the stand-off range for detection of SNM, particularly when heavily shielded, using energetic neutral beams for interrogation.
  Description:  The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) seeks means of extending the standoff distance between detectors and SNM sources, particularly when heavily shielded or otherwise obscured by masking radioisotopes. Passive nuclear detection techniques of weak radionuclides are limited to a few meters distance and their effectiveness is further reduced by shielding. This solicitation seeks research into stronger, more directional beams of neutral energetic particles, either neutrons or gamma rays, for use in a field environment. This research also seeks to combine active beams with detection elements for identifying SNM in the presence of the induced radiation background from an active particle flux. The long-term goal of this research is to place a greater fluence of energetic species on a suspect target thereby increasing the distance at which an induced signal could be detected and positive identification made. Current capability exists in small isotropic neutron sources, large directional neutron sources, large multi-spectral photonic sources, and mono-energetic gamma sources for radiography. Detector capability exists for the passive detection of gammas and neutrons. However, there is no capability for a portable/transportable active interrogation system that combines the individual technological elements into a fully capable detection system for use in a field environment. Imaging capability of a suspect target based on the detection of transmitted, scattered, and induced radiations is a desirable capability.

  PHASE I: Develop a conceptual design for an active interrogation system and show the feasibility of using such a system for a DoD mission such as wide-area search for significant quantities of SNM (e.g., one kilogram) being transported in a ground vehicle.
  PHASE II: Develop a prototype system operable in a field environment. Demonstrate with a laboratory test.

  PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: In addition to military applications, highly directional beams of neutrons or gamma rays would have relevance in the medical industry. Commercial applications would also include radiography of structures for water intrusion. However, the DoD requirement for field ruggedness and adverse operating environments is unique among these applications.

  References:  1. Bücherl, Thomas, and Christoph Lierse von Gostomski. Radiography Using Fission Neutrons. International Workshop on Fast Neutron Detectors and Applications, 3 Apr. 2006. 8 Aug. 2006 <http://pos.sissa.it/cgi-bin/reader/conf.cgi?confid=25#session-1>. 2. Smith, M.B., H.R. Andrews, E.T.H. Clifford, H. Ing, V.T. Koslowsky, R.T. Noulty, M. Zhang, L.G.I. Bennett, M.L. Boudreau, A.R. Green, B.J. Lewis, R. Nolte, and S. Röttger. Canadian High-Energy Neutron Spectrometry System (CHENSS). International Workshop on Fast Neutron Detectors and Applications, 3 Apr. 2006. 8 Aug. 2006 <http://pos.sissa.it/cgi-bin/reader/conf.cgi?confid=25#session-1>.

Keywords:  Radiation detection, neutron sources, photo fission, prompt and delayed neutrons, prompt and delayed gammas

Additional Information, Corrections, References, etc:
Ref #1: available at: http://pos.sissa.it//archive/conferences/025/033/FNDA2006_033.pdf
Ref #1: available at: http://pos.sissa.it//archive/conferences/025/033/FNDA2006_033.pdf
Ref #2: available at: http://pos.sissa.it//archive/conferences/025/006/FNDA2006_006.pdf
Ref #2: available at: http://pos.sissa.it//archive/conferences/025/006/FNDA2006_006.pdf

Questions and Answers:
Q: 1. What materials entail SNM? For example, does this refer to uranium and plutonium in the context of nuclear weapons? Or does it also extend to materials that might be used in dirty bombs? Does it include tritium detection?

2. Are there any prohibitions on the source technology? For example, could it generate neutrons by employing D-T fusion reactions, where the tritium would be a radioisotope used in the generator?

3. How mobile a system is desired? Something that could be transported on a semi? A Humvee or other smaller vehicle possibly even a helicopter? Or perhaps something small enough to be handheld by a single individual like a backpack with a scanning wand?

4. Is there any preference for the system to operate in either a pulsed or steady-state configuration? This may depend on the answer to question 1, as there are some advantages to pulsing when trying to detect uranium or plutonium.

5. In the solicitation, it was mentioned that the capability of conducting a wide area search was desired. How wide an area? Does this include just mobile systems, or perhaps semi-mobile systems that could be set up to scan say all vehicles passing a checkpoint?
A: 1. Special Nuclear Material includes enriched uranium and plutonium. Although we would not exclude active interrogation for detection of any material that could pose a nuclear or radiological threat, active interrogation is of particular interest for detection of enriched uranium.

2. There are no prohibitions on the source technology. In general, we are interested in the most effective or appropriate source for a particular application. We are interested in new sources that are not being developed currently. It is recognized that particular technologies may have advantages for particular applications including, but not limited to, portability, directionality, type of interrogating radiation, energy of interrogating radiation, continuous or passive, complexity, portability or transportability, hazards or other problems associated with concept of operations (CONOPS).

3. DTRA applications for active interrogation systems generally require that the system be personally portable or transportable on military platforms. Applications of interest to DTRA include, but are not limited to, systems that are man-portable and systems that can be transported on or operated from humvees, helicopters, ships, aircraft, and unmanned vehicles.

4. There is no a priori requirement for a pulsed or continuous active interrogation system. As noted in the question, each type may have advantages or disadvantages for a particular application.

5. DTRA application for wide-area search capability generally require mobile systems. Our interest is to search from as long a stand-off distance as possible - from meters to kilometers. We do not exclude interest in transportable systems that could be set up to monitor vehicles at checkpoints or choke points.
Q: 1. What materials entail SNM? For example, does this refer to uranium and plutonium in the context of nuclear weapons? Or does it also extend to materials that might be used in dirty bombs? Does it include tritium detection?

2. Are there any prohibitions on the source technology? For example, could it generate neutrons by employing D-T fusion reactions, where the tritium would be a radioisotope used in the generator?

3. How mobile a system is desired? Something that could be transported on a semi? A Humvee or other smaller vehicle possibly even a helicopter? Or perhaps something small enough to be handheld by a single individual like a backpack with a scanning wand?

4. Is there any preference for the system to operate in either a pulsed or steady-state configuration? This may depend on the answer to question 1, as there are some advantages to pulsing when trying to detect uranium or plutonium.

5. In the solicitation, it was mentioned that the capability of conducting a wide area search was desired. How wide an area? Does this include just mobile systems, or perhaps semi-mobile systems that could be set up to scan say all vehicles passing a checkpoint?
A: 1. Special Nuclear Material includes enriched uranium and plutonium. Although we would not exclude active interrogation for detection of any material that could pose a nuclear or radiological threat, active interrogation is of particular interest for detection of enriched uranium.

2. There are no prohibitions on the source technology. In general, we are interested in the most effective or appropriate source for a particular application. We are interested in new sources that are not being developed currently. It is recognized that particular technologies may have advantages for particular applications including, but not limited to, portability, directionality, type of interrogating radiation, energy of interrogating radiation, continuous or passive, complexity, portability or transportability, hazards or other problems associated with concept of operations (CONOPS).

3. DTRA applications for active interrogation systems generally require that the system be personally portable or transportable on military platforms. Applications of interest to DTRA include, but are not limited to, systems that are man-portable and systems that can be transported on or operated from humvees, helicopters, ships, aircraft, and unmanned vehicles.

4. There is no a priori requirement for a pulsed or continuous active interrogation system. As noted in the question, each type may have advantages or disadvantages for a particular application.

5. DTRA application for wide-area search capability generally require mobile systems. Our interest is to search from as long a stand-off distance as possible - from meters to kilometers. We do not exclude interest in transportable systems that could be set up to monitor vehicles at checkpoints or choke points.

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