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An instrument that may boost international safeguards

 

Narrator:            This is Science Today. A lightweight, portable gamma ray spectrometer that NASA has launched into space to take the first-ever gamma ray data of the planet Mercury, can also be used on terra firma to detect nuclear materials. Physicist Morgan Burks of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory helped develop this innovative gamma ray spectrometer, which is called GEMINI.

Burks:                 So, a spectrometer means that you're measuring their energy with precision and that's important because gamma rays are a fingerprint for the radioactive material that has emitted radiation.

Narrator:            Burks explains that their high resolution spectrometer can be used for international safeguards.

Burks:                 You want to be able to inspect foreign nuclear facilities, for example, that we have a treaty or an agreement with to verify that they are using their reactors to make power, but not using their reactors to generate weapons grade material. It turns out that with only minor modifications to a reactor, you can go from generating power to weapons material and that's the concern. So, we'd like a portable instrument that's high resolution that we can inspect the facility and verify the process.

Narrator:            For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.