Michelle Lee L&S Sciences
Analyzing neutron activation of materials following a nuclear explosion
If a nuclear weapon exploded in an urban environment, the effects would be catastrophic. Governments would want to quickly know what type of weapon it was, where it came from and who made it. One effect of the explosion is that it would expose many materials to large numbers of neutrons producing a variety of radioactive isotopes. When these isotopes decay, they produce characteristic gamma rays that allow them to be uniquely identified. My project will identify the radioactive species produced by neutron interactions with a wide variety of materials and determine which can provide the most detailed information on the type of weapon that exploded. I plan to conduct a thorough analysis of existing data and draft a report that will describe the gamma-ray signatures in terms of both their energies and time dependences that will provide details on the nature of the device. Through this, I hope to shed light on a sensitive but important topic of post-detonation nuclear forensics.