Detecting Proliferant Activity With Laser Technology

Nuclear weapons manufacturing processes produce distinctive chemical effluents which might be amenable to detection using airborne platform. However, the effluent quantities are minute; they are not terribly different from naturally occurring elements; and, since circumstances may not allow on-site visits, they must be detected from long standoff ranges. These factors in combination present enormous technical challenges. Programs underway within the Air Force, the Army, and the Department of Energy are each exploring approaches to the active detection of proliferation-related effluents.

Within the Department of Energy, the Office of Nonproliferation and National Security has teamed researchers at five national laboratories-Brookhaven, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Pacific Northwest, and Sandia-to develop and assess an active optical remote sensing capability. This program, labeled CALIOPE (Chemical Analysis by Laser Interrogation of Proliferation Effluents) got under way in 1993 and is aimed at using laser systems to detect trace amounts of chemicals and gaseous effluents that result

from activities such as nuclear fuel manufacturing, enrichment, and reprocessing, and to do it remotely. CALIOPE draws upon the core competencies of each of the above Energy Department laboratories. There is no other national capability that can match the combination of expertise in nuclear weapons design and manufacturing, chemical analysis, process modeling, sensor and laser technology, atmospheric research, spectroscopy, and large system integration and deployment available in this joint team.

The minute quantities of the effluents anticipated require optical detection techniques which are several orders of magnitude more sensitive than existing active remote-sensing systems. Recent advances in the technology of tunable, high-power laser sources in the relevant wavelength ranges and in sensing techniques may make optical detection practical for this application. The CALIOPE team is addressing difficult technical challenges in the areas of frequency-agile lasers, rugged detectors, and new nonlinear optical materials. Other technical components of their program include signature identification and spectral characterization; laser transmitter and detector/receiver development; and airborne demonstrations.

The program successfully completed its first ground-based system field test in October 1994. The first elevated platform field test is planned for late 1996, leading up to an airborne system demonstration using more rugged components planned before the year 2000.

Technologies for On-Site Inspection

From the NPT, which relies on the IAEA safeguards system to confirm that nuclear material is not being diverted to military purposes, to the CWC, whose monitors will face the challenge of dealing with some 25,000 facilities in 65 countries, technologies for on-site inspection are critical to arms reduction and nonproliferation efforts.

On-site inspectors need procedures and equipment that are simple, reliable, and tamperproof. We are focusing on enabling technologies that can make treaty monitoring and verification tasks as simple and reliable as possible. Technology can also provide cheaper and potentially less intrusive on-site inspections. For example, technologies for remotely operated on-site monitoring can cut down on the frequency and cost of inspector visits.

Cooperation To Control Fissile Materials

Under Clinton Administration leadership, the United States and Russia, as the world's largest nuclear powers, have undertaken a wide-ranging cooperative effort to control their huge stocks of weapons-usable plutonium and HEU. This cooperation includes doz dozens of initiatives in four key areas: (1) securing nuclear materials, thereby reducing the risk of theft or diversion; (2) building confidence through openness, with data exchanges, reciprocal inspections, and other cooperative measures designed to build each side's confidence in its understanding of the size, character, security, and rate of reduction of the other's stockpiles of nuclear weapons and weapons-usable materials; (3) halting accumulation of excess stocks, including the 1994 agreement halting production of additional plutonium for weapons; and (4) of excess materials, transforming excess plutonium and HEU into forms that no longer pose substantial security threats. In all these areas, intensive U.S.-Russian cooperation is already under way.

A key example of the mutual benefit of such science and technology cooperation is the new security and accounting system recently installed at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow. In just two months in late 1994, for less than $1 million, Russian and U.S. s scientists installed a radically improved system to protect and account for the weapons-usable material used in a building housing two critical facilities at Kurchatov. The system includes a computerized material accounting system, nuclear material detectors to detect any attempted theft, motion detectors, alarms, closed-circuit television monitors, and a double security fence. Today, similar cooperative efforts are under way to modernize security and accounting systems elsewhere at Kurchatov and at

A key example of U.S. leadership in providing technology for international on-site monitoring is our support for the IAEA safeguards system. Since 1967 the United States has funded a program to research, develop, test, and deploy new technologies for IAEA safeguards, including methods and equipment for sealing and for providing long-term surveillance of material and equipment; new methods and equipment for measuring nuclear materials and monitoring the operation of nuclear processes, such as reprocessing spent fuel and separating plutonium; and new information management methods and technologies. This program is conducted through the Department of Energy's national laboratories as well as commercial firms. The national laboratories provide a solid foundation of basic and applied research on which IAEA safeguards also depend. The IAEA considers the U.S. program-the first and largest of several such national programs-essential to the IAEA's ability to keep up with evolving technologies and national capabilities.