HomeNewsArticle Display

AFTAC, University of Texas to partner on nuclear forensics research

Claudia Granger, a mass spectrometry technician at the Ciambrone Radiochemistry Laboratory, fills a liquid nitrogen trap in a thermal ionization mass spectrometer.  Granger is one of more than 1,000 people assigned to the Air Force Technical Applications Center at Patrick AFB, Fla., the Department of Defense’s sole nuclear treaty monitoring center. (U.S. Air Force photo by William B. Belcher)

Claudia Granger, a Ciambrone Radiochemistry Laboratory mass spectrometry technician, fills a liquid nitrogen trap in a thermal ionization mass spectrometer. Granger is one of more than 1,000 people assigned to the Air Force Technical Applications Center at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., the Department of Defense’s sole nuclear treaty monitoring center. (U.S. Air Force photo/William B. Belcher)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- The Air Force Technical Applications Center will collaborate with the University of Texas at Austin to conduct research in the field of nuclear forensics.

Sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, the Nuclear Forensics Research Award established a team of researchers including faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, as well as a national or defense laboratory, to conduct advanced nuclear forensics research. AFTAC’s Ciambrone Radiochemistry Lab was chosen by DHS’ National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center to collaborate with two graduate students from UTA on short-lived radionuclide analysis.

AFTAC, the Department of Defense’s sole organization responsible for nuclear treaty monitoring, is also on the forefront of protecting the homeland as part of the NTNF program. Through an established array of sensors across the U.S., AFTAC assists the FBI with nuclear forensics collection and analysis after a nuclear detonation.

Technically speaking, AFTAC and UTA will focus on analyzing short-lived radionuclides using gamma coincidence spectroscopy with multiple high-purity germanium detectors. The two organizations will use fission-spectrum neutron sources, in conjunction with rapid sample retrieval systems, to produce relevant fission-product forensic samples.

In layman’s terms, the students, faculty and scientists will collaborate to develop methods and techniques to improve nuclear forensics timelines after a nuclear explosion in order to provide data rapidly to senior decision makers.

“AFTAC’s efforts and involvement with the NTNF program are making the DOD’s vision to protect U.S. personnel and interests from the threat of a weapon of mass destruction a reality,” said Dr. Bill Johnson, a Ciambrone Radiochemistry Lab senior scientist. “Nuclear forensics is a keystone of AFTAC’s responsibility of assisting the U.S. government in its commitment to hold perpetrators accountable, and also counters the smuggling of nuclear material by helping to identify those responsible. Our lab performs that analysis, and having this partnership with the University of Texas (at Austin) will bolster our analytical capabilities, while helping the students gain invaluable hands-on experience in an operational radiochemistry lab.”

The Ciambrone Radiochemistry Lab, the only lab of its type in the Air Force and one of many in AFTAC’s own network of analytical labs across the U.S., is used to identify radiologic or nuclear debris in support of AFTAC’s Nuclear Debris Collection and Analysis Program. The lab analyzes samples to assess signatory compliance to established nuclear weapons testing treaties in support of the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection System.

“The award helps ensure a robust nuclear forensics operational capability,” said Dr. Mark Suriano, the DNDO assistant director who leads the NTNF Center at DHS. “This award is key to bringing students into the nuclear forensic workforce, and to supporting the United States government’s capability to counter nuclear terrorism.”

Dr. Glenn Sjoden, the AFTAC’s chief scientist, emphasized the importance of partnerships like this.

“Nuclear deterrence is critical to the overarching role this center plays in our national strategy,” he said. “When we’re able to introduce new minds to our unique 70-year history of monitoring nuclear activity across the globe, it allows us to stress the vital importance and necessity of deterring other nation-states or even non-state actors from waging war with nuclear weapons. As long as the threat exists, however, AFTAC stands ready to support our leaders in their decision-making. I look forward to working with the students from UTA.”

Engage

Facebook Twitter
8 of the surviving #Apollo #Astronauts got together for the 50th anniversary of the #moonlanding. @NASAhttps://t.co/szPJHXupa1
RT @HQUSAFEPA: Gen. Goldfein, during his keynote address at the 2019 Chief of the Air Staff's Air and Space Power Conference said the follo…
.@WrightPattAFB opened a #cyberdefense facility for #USAF Life Cycle Management Center's Fighters & Bombers Directo… https://t.co/QibdORLX2q
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: Our asymmetric advantage is represented in this room. It is all of us working together on a common cause. Great to see…
.@AFResearchLab supports @AFThunderbirds w/cutting-edge aerospace #technology. From G-suits, custom earpieces, fly-… https://t.co/HJ07fLg2aP
Operating from rough dirt strips, the #C130 Hercules is capable of transporting & airdropping troops & equipment in… https://t.co/c4vsC76vRX
Tune into @TheWilsonCenter July 18, 2019 at 8:05 a.m. (EDT) to hear #USAirForce Lt. Gen. Bussiere, @USNorthernCmd A… https://t.co/M2LTH8wpx5
.@DMAFB #Airmen traveled more than 1700 miles to save two critically injured Mexican fishermen onboard the Mazatun… https://t.co/tcTnNPC8Zj
RT @KadenaAirBase: #ICYMI: #TeamKadena will be activating a new special operations squadron for the operation and maintenance of the #CV22
#OTDIH, The B-2 Spirit's inaugural test flight happened from Palmdale to @EdwardsAFB, #California. The B-2 Spirit i… https://t.co/bS7ODGlxsP
.@HAFB #Airmen conduct #F35 missions while temporary assigned to @366FW. This is the largest off-station F-35A Li… https://t.co/KlbXq7jBLg
RT @MacDill_AFB: CSM John W. Troxell has our #TotalForce team here at MacDill feeling empowered! 😎💪 Thanks for visiting our service members…
.@NellisAFB plans to roll out shorts for maintenance technicians to wear on the flight line in the scorching Nevada… https://t.co/fcavaNG112
⚡️ “RAF Lakenheath breaks ground on future F-35 infrastructure” by @usairforce https://t.co/wiOjMMONZD
.@48FighterWing hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the new #F35 infrastructure at Royal Air Force Lakenheath,… https://t.co/nOmLeR1egG
🗣Calling all #Milwaukeeans! #USAF Captain Curtis Hinca calls #Milwaukee home & is an Air Force Prosecutor… https://t.co/0LqvQdCUqm
RT @ValerieInsinna: Here’s a little bonus footage of @GenDaveGoldfein taxiing before his a ride in @FinnishAirForce F/A-18s. Read the story…
.@NellisAFB, Staff Sgt. Kenneth Delongchamp saved lives during the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.… https://t.co/GJygss6FBZ
RT @PACAF: Airmen from around the @usairforce tested themselves in the Small Unit Ranger Tactics course at the @25ID #LightningAcademy. #Ai
The latest roundup of the best #AirForce photos is out. See them here: https://t.co/0w3MNpiixe