The National Academy of Engineering recently identified "Preventing nuclear terror" as one of the 12 Grand Challenges for Engineering for the 21st century. New technologies to prevent, deter, and, if required, respond to a nuclear attack are highly needed in the US and world-wide. We are addressing the Grand Challenge through the development of new detection techniques and algorithms for special nuclear material (SNM) detection, characterization, and identification. Such techniques are used, for example, to deter the illicit trafficking of SNM by employing them to monitor the shipment of goods and services across borders. Related challenges include the development of new (i) detection systems to counter the shortage of He-3 gas, historically widely-used for neutron detection and (ii) monitoring systems for nuclear fuel used at fuel fabrication and reprocessing facilities.
In this presentation, I will discuss these challenges and the recent advances in detector development, electronics, and algorithms that contribute to solving them. I will present recent results from experiments performed on mixed-oxide samples at the JRC in Ispra, Italy and at the Idaho National Laboratory. In addition, a description of our Monte Carlo code systems will be provided, with particular emphasis on the physics of emission of correlated neutrons and gamma rays from fission events. Finally, I will describe advances in neutron and gamma ray imaging detection systems used to pinpoint the location of SNM.