Analytics

New computer models promise better analysis of underground nuclear tests

Shutterstock image (by Maksim Kabakou): Science data concept, nuclear icon.

A new analytic technique used with computer modeling could help international nuclear weapons inspections teams track down and determine a more thorough signature of nuclear weapons used in secretive subterranean tests like the one North Korea conducted earlier this year.

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have developed a computer modeling technique to better track noble gases, such as radioactive xenon isotopes, that can carry the signature of what kind of nuclear weapon was tested. The research team was able to simulate the signature of gases that escape into the atmosphere after an underground nuclear test.

North Korea claimed it conducted an underground test of a hydrogen bomb in January. 

According to LLNL, the new technique can find a secret underground test site within a 1,000 square kilometer search area during onsite inspections carried out under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The research also may have applications in monitoring other heated or pressurized subsurface operations, such as in situ coal gasification, deep sequestration of supercritical CO2 and nuclear waste disposal.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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