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
.@HQAirUniversity recently hosted @SecAFOfficial's 66th annual National Security Forum, enabling the sharing of per… https://t.co/qBlG5F69ah
#ICYMI #Barksdale Airmen deployed in support of @CENTCOM Bomber Task Force in early May @DeptofDefense. The #B52 is… https://t.co/o8yJgq72dm
Tomorrow the #AirForce will celebrate @SecAFOfficial's tenure as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force. #WatchLIVE as… https://t.co/mTuhuZaNxu
RT @DeptofDefense: Throughout the history of the @USAirForce, adaptation and innovation have played a key role in sustaining global suprema…
It was "Fangs Out" @HAFB for Exercise Venom 19-01 which aligned with Hill’s Combat Showcase. https://t.co/3UtNLRYcp1 https://t.co/5d3JW876IH
The #B52 Wise Guy, a cold warrior that stood sentinel over America from the darkest days of the Cold War to the glo… https://t.co/yxSgZpsBKY
Have a bright idea for ways to #FuelMoreFight? @AFEnergy's looking for you. https://t.co/nbHISOo0KP
Congratulations to #USAF Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadet Maj. Sydney Cloutier from Pensacola High Schoo… https://t.co/baRvgYsuPC
Grand Forks AFB soon to be known as America's Global Hawk Base once the @319ABW is re-designated as the 319th Recon… https://t.co/EBRkBhkE0f
RT @ConorDaly22: Have to give a big thank you to @usairforce TSgt Amanda Reynolds for drawing us spot number 1 to qualify! Just under 2 hou…
Today, Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch met w/@GovHolcomb & the #AdjutantGeneral of @INGuardsman at the @IMS as part of our ne… https://t.co/r8amzUd8Ko
#DYK: The #USAF's real #CaptainMarvel trained @brielarson for her role as Capt. Marvel. Learn more about Brig Gener… https://t.co/hZNbSzuvNS
Calling all Hoosiers! We're coming to #Indianapolis May 18-20 as part of our new community outreach program -… https://t.co/ywj6LXACAW
.@SecAFOfficial was interviewed by #JojoScienceShow at last week's @Andrews_JBA's #STEM event which featured more t… https://t.co/CwAjk4Foxq
RT @SecAFOfficial: The @USAirForce will now reimburse qualifying licensure & recertification fees incurred during PCS/PCAs up to $500 for s…
.@SJAFB spouse wins #AirForce level award for connecting the team Seymour volunteer to the community learn more:… https://t.co/TtWbSKNs87
#Airmen from across @HQUSAFEPA gather together with sister services and @NATO members to gain critical skills that… https://t.co/vk81NGuJLa
.@53rdWRS #HurricaneHunters and @NWSNHC teams participated in a Hurricane Awareness Tour, gaining safety knowledge… https://t.co/DDc4P7y71n
#DYK, the #AirForce has two deployable labs. These Rapid Assistance Support for Calibration units or RASCALS have b… https://t.co/DhKfKN8bDN