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Radiochemistry and Nuclear Measurements

INL’s Radiochemistry and Nuclear Measurements is leading research and development of instruments and methods related to handling, chemical processing, isotopic separations, purification, detection, and measurement of radioactive materials. This work focuses on a broad set of applications in support of nuclear energy development, special nuclear materials accountancy and controls, international safeguards, nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear counterproliferation, nuclear forensics, and other national security applications.

Areas of Expertise:

  • Production and characterization of radioactive gasses,
  • Isotopic enrichment of trace quantities of actinides and other radionuclides,
  • Ultratrace isotope mass spectrometry,
  • High-resolution gamma-ray spectrometry and prompt gamma-ray neutron activation analysis,
  • High-speed data acquisition,
  • Fast neutron detection and measurement,
  • Alpha spectrometry, and
  • Active neutron interrogation for the detection and characterization of high explosives, chemicals, and special nuclear materials.
  • Emerging areas of research include data analytics, acoustics, and x-ray radiography of irradiated nuclear fuel.

Applied Radiation Measurements and Systems

INL researchers developed this technology using scintillating fibers for radiation detection over long distances.

As the world looks to underground geological repositories for storing nuclear waste, technologies to safeguard the material are needed. One new technology for this effort is Tripwire. 

Tripwire is a multisensory system approach for geological spent nuclear fuel repositories that relies on radiation, vibration and electromagnetic detection. This technology can become very useful for detection in:

  • Nuclear waste repositories,
  • Nuclear material storage facilities,
  • Spent fuel dry storage areas,
  • Inaccessible areas at reactors and reprocessing facilities,
  • Radiation-generating research facilities,
  • Medical radioisotope production facilities,
  • Medical irradiation therapy facilities and other similar areas.

Trace Analysis

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty bans nuclear explosions in all environments. The treaty establishes a global system of monitoring stations, known as the International Monitoring System (IMS), to detect nuclear explosions.

The IMS monitors for certain radioactive isotopes, and Idaho National Laboratory’s nonproliferation expertise is crucial for providing the ability to test and maintain this global nuclear explosion monitoring system.

Photonuclear Reactions for Isotope Production and Nuclear Science

Radioactive isotopes are used in a variety of applications including geologic science, blood irradiation, cancer therapy, fundamental nuclear science and technical nuclear forensics. These applications depend on the ability to abundantly and easily produce specific isotopes or combinations of isotopes. Common methods for radionuclide production include neutron irradiation in a nuclear reactor or activation in a charged particle accelerator. Idaho National Laboratory has helped mature the ability to produce radioisotopes via photo-induced nuclear reactions, which provide a cheaper method to produce uranium fission products and carrier-free radionuclides without a high flux neutron source

Portable Isotopic Neutron Spectroscopy System (PINS)

PINS provides an effective and efficient way to detect dangerous materials. The technology provides real-time detection and analysis of samples in the field.

Weapons of mass destruction threaten national security and public safety. The Portable Isotopic Neutron Spectroscopy System, or PINS, was developed to detect and assess chemical warfare agents. PINS’ main use is on recovered munitions, i.e., items that have turned up in the environment through remediation, repurposing or other commercial activities. As munitions are recovered these weapons cause a severe safety hazard due to their age, lack of records or documentation, and the degradation of materials inside.

DD Neutron Generator

The most recent version of PINS uses a compact electronic deuterium-deuterium neutron generator. This allows the source to be turned on and off and easily stored without the need for heavy radiation shielding.


PINS can be easily transported to different locations and set up in the field. This makes it a valuable tool for a wide range of applications. PINS is generally used in scenarios where identifying elemental compositions is important.


PINS uses a nondestructive technique that doesn’t alter or damage the sample being analyzed. This makes the tool ideal for detecting dangerous or unknown materials.

Idaho National Laboratory