Nuclear Detection and Forensics - National Strategic Research Institute


NSRI is advancing research and technology for rapid, accurate, and field deployable nuclear detection & forensics capabilities.  Our nationally-recognized expertise allows us to generate innovative and long-term nuclear research solutions critical to our national security.

“One of the gravest threats to the U.S. is the potential for nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists or rogue states. NSRI is working with the University of Nebraska and others to develop new methods and technologies to detect, deter, and counter nuclear proliferation and to respond to nuclear events. We are developing technologies to detect covert proliferation activities, methods to assess proliferation risks and counter proliferation strategies, and forensics processes that can be used to help identify the actors involved in nuclear events.”

Dr. William Charlton , Director of Research

Our researchers are pioneering the development of novel technologies to detect nuclear materials and radiation signatures to increase speed, accuracy & sensitivity over current methods; capable of field-deployment; and safer for operators. With world-class facilities, such as the extreme light laboratory, our researchers are truly at the forefront of nuclear detection & forensics research. This research has nuclear security implications, applications for our nation’s nuclear arsenal, and impacts both military and civilian nuclear operations.

Nuclear Detection

The detection of shielded, illicit special nuclear material is a significant challenge for our national security.  NSRI researchers are engaged in developing innovative methods of active interrogation and advancing current technologies such as photon sources to develop a portable, “surgeable” system. Operating in interdisciplinary teams from physics, chemistry, material science, electrical and other engineering disciplines facilitates the development of solutions to improve our nation’s capabilities in detecting nuclear threats. NSRI/NU’s research in radiation detectors spans the technology spectrum – from ‘proof of principle’ devices to advanced user-friendly, handheld instruments for field use.

Nuclear Forensics

A critical component of our nation’s security is nuclear forensics which can be defined as “identifying ways to improve the measurement techniques and methodologies used to determine specific characteristics of material processing history, geographic origins, transport pathways, and intended use”.  NSRI prioritizes identifying current technological gaps and R&D solutions for distinguishing properties of nuclear material.  Although identifying nuclear signatures are technically demanding and requires a high level of expertise, NSRI is committed to advancing our nation’s nuclear forensics capabilities for security and to support nuclear attribution through basic and applied research endeavors.

Dr. Donald Umstadter & the Extreme Light Laboratory

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