Detecting nuclear weapons?

There are many different ways to detect a nuclear detonation, including seismic, hydroacoustic and infrasound detection, air sampling, and satellites. They have their own weaknesses and strengths, as well as different utilities. In 2003, the Department of Energy began a new part of the Second Line of Defense program called the Megaports Initiative, which involves equipping foreign seaports with equipment capable of detecting nuclear materials hidden in transport containers, those square metal units that are often stacked high above from the deck of cargo ships and being dragged down the road behind trucks. You were involved in helping to establish the framework for the nuclear deal with Iran, in which six countries agreed to lift sanctions on the country in exchange for slowing down its nuclear program.

Kemp explored the promises and limits of detecting concealed nuclear weapons programs in a recent article in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Detecting plutonium production, Kemp says, is easier than detecting enriched uranium production for several reasons. Therefore, advances in ultra-sensitive detection of certain chemicals could allow remote detection. And while the Soviet authorities maintained good control over their nuclear weapons, their production records and inventory of materials used in weapons construction and nuclear power generation are so uncertain that it is often impossible to know if anything is missing.

Authorities have been eager to establish a second line of defense, equipping border crossing stations in countries that were formerly within the Soviet Union (and in some other European and Mediterranean nations) with special equipment so that local customs officials can detect attempts to nuclear smuggling in or out of contraband. It summarizes the history of studies on the causes of nuclear proliferation, focusing on how allies and antagonists of nuclear nations have shaped the development of weapons. But what if there were ways to detect a nuclear weapons program early on, long before it succeeded in causing an explosion? That is the goal of researchers working in remote sensing techniques, such as satellite instruments to detect uranium mining or chemical detectors to detect by-products of uranium processing. These rays can be detected in the same way as those of nuclear emissions, but the resulting spectrum is not unique to the source.

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