Virginia Tech researchers develop high-tech box that can detect nuclear power

Researchers develop high-tech device that can detect plutonium

By Patricia Martellotti - Reporter

BLACKSBURG, Va. - For the past two years researchers at the Virginia Tech College of Science have been developing a high-tech box full of plastic cubes that can be placed outside a nuclear reactor.

The box would detect particles outside the reactor which can be used to track a key ingredient in nuclear weapons, plutonium.

“It gets interesting because plutonium is used to make nuclear weapons and each nuclear reactor makes plutonium and so you want to be able to check with all the plutonium, to make sure what should be there is still there,” said Patrick Huber, researcher at Virginia Tech.

Huber said the box would help United Nations regulators track the amount of plutonium in other countries, including nations seen as volatile.

“So in that sense having technologies like these available will allow you to spot nuclear entry into countries you might otherwise not feel comfortable doing so,” said Huber.

It's also tamper-proof.

All you would need is a power hookup, and satellite internet.

“And the device is ready to roll,” says Huber.

While the project is not completely finished, researchers have high hopes.

“The hope is that we would successfully demonstrate the capability of this detector,” said Jaewon Park, researcher at Virginia Tech.

“And maybe five years from now deploy in countries like Iran to actually implement nuclear safeguards,” said Huber. 

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