How to detect nuclear weapons?

Nuclear weapons produce detectable signatures, such as radiation or a noticeable image on an X-ray. Other detection techniques are also available. To find a nuclear weapon, radiation detectors are commonly used to measure radiation emissions. The problem is that these detectors are rarely able to measure far enough, close enough and unshielded in the way.

This is especially true in urban environments. Let's look at a scenario in which a nuclear weapon is in a vehicle driving on a street. Scanning vehicles with detectors placed next to roads or in overpasses only provides a couple of seconds of measurement per vehicle and the load surrounding the weapon, as well as the vehicle itself, provides some protection. The EPA maintains a system of radiation monitors throughout the United States.

These monitors were originally designed to detect radionuclides that were released after the detonation of a nuclear weapon. Now, the EPA uses this system, called RadNet, to observe background radiation levels in many places in the United States. Background radiation surrounds us all the time, mainly from natural sources, such as natural radon and uranium. To learn more about the history of RadNet, visit the More information about RadNet web page.

In nuclear engineering at Oregon State University, where he studied the dosimetry of nuclear and radiological exposure events and processes. 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 smuggling attempts nuclear contraband entry or exit. These rays can be detected in the same way as those of nuclear emissions, but the resulting spectrum is not unique to the source. Robert Oppenheimer, suggested to Congress a reliable means of detecting nuclear weapons inside a suitcase destined to be detonated in an American city.

Detecting plutonium production, Kemp says, is easier than detecting enriched uranium production for several reasons. There are many different ways to detect a nuclear detonation, including seismic, hydroacoustic and infrasound detection, air sampling, and satellites. 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. 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.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) The CTBT is a legally binding global ban on the testing of nuclear explosives.

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