Seminar: Nuclear Disarmament Verification via Resonant Phenomena - Department of Nuclear Engineering Seminar: Nuclear Disarmament Verification via Resonant Phenomena - Department of Nuclear Engineering

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Seminar: Nuclear Disarmament Verification via Resonant Phenomena

April 25, 2019 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

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Dr. Areg Danagoulian
Assistant Professor
Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Nuclear disarmament treaties are not sufficient in and of themselves to neutralize the existential threat of the nuclear weapons. Technologies are necessary for verifying the authenticity of the nuclear warheads undergoing dismantlement before counting them towards a treaty partner’s obligation. A team of scientists working at MIT has developed two novel concepts which leverage isotope-specific nuclear resonance phenomena to authenticate a warhead’s fissile components by comparing them to a previously authenticated template.  Most actinides such as uranium and plutonium exhibit unique sets of resonances when interacting with MeV photons and eV neutrons. When measured, these resonances produce isotope-specific features in the spectral data, thus creating an isotopic “fingerprint” of an object. All information in these measurements has to be and is encrypted in the physical domain in a manner that amounts to a physical zero-knowledge proof system. Using Monte Carlo simulations and experimental proof-of-concept measurements these techniques are shown to reveal no isotopic or geometric information about the weapon, while readily detecting hoaxing attempts. These new methodologies can dramatically increase the reach and trustworthiness of future nuclear disarmament treaties.  The talk will discuss the concepts and recent results, and it will give a general overview of nuclear security research pursued at MIT.


Areg Danagoulian is an Assistant Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT.  He did his undergraduate work in Physics at NCSU and MIT and performed his PhD research in Experimental Nuclear Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Areg’s PhD thesis focused on experiments that used real Compton scattering on the proton at 2-6 GeV, probing the proton’s internal structure and understanding how it couples to external excitations. After his PhD, Areg worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a postdoctoral researcher, and then as a senior scientist at Passport Systems, Inc. (PSI). At PSI Areg developed the award-winning Prompt Neutron from Photofission (PNPF) technique, which enables the rapid detection of shielded fissionable materials in commercial cargo traffic. Areg’s current research interests focus on scientific applications in nuclear security, such as nuclear nonproliferation, technologies for treaty verification, nuclear safeguards, and cargo security. Current specific research areas include warhead verification using nuclear resonances and use of nuclear reactions for high precision radiography in nuclear security applications.


Thursday, April 25. 2019
3:45 pm refreshments; 4:00 pm seminar
Room 1202 Burlington Labs

***This seminar will be streamed live on our NCStateNuclear YouTube channel***


April 25, 2019
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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1202 Burlington Labs
2500 Stinson Drive
Raleigh, NC 27695-7909 United States
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