Detection of Nuclear Weapons and Materials: Science, Technologies, Observations
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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Detection of nuclear weapons and special nuclear material SNM, plutonium, and certain types of uranium is crucial to thwarting nuclear proliferation and terrorism and to securing weapons and materials worldwide. Congress has funded a portfolio of detection RD and acquisition programs, and has mandated inspection at foreign ports of all U.S.-bound cargo containers using two types of detection equipment. Nuclear weapons contain SNM, which produces suspect signatures that can be detected. It emits radiation, notably gamma rays high-energy photons and neutrons. SNM is dense, so it produces a bright image on a radiograph a picture like a medical x-ray when x-rays or gamma rays are beamed through a container in which it is hidden. Using lead or other shielding to attenuate gamma rays would make that image larger. Nuclear weapons produce detectable signatures, such as radiation or a noticeable image on a radiograph. Other detection techniques are also available.
- Optical Detection and Detectors
- Nuclear Weapons