The U.S. Support Program to IAEA Safeguards - Destructive Analysis Page: 4 of 8
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Nuclear Material Sample Analysis
Analysis of nuclear material samples from declared nuclear facilities, in conjunction with traditional
safeguards inspections, yields data essential to evaluating the correctness of a State's declaration in
the operation of its nuclear facilities and nuclear material storage areas. Nuclear material samples
are taken from process solutions and stored materials in facilities under IAEA safeguards.
Measurement of these nuclear materials from declared facilities can provide precise information for
bias defect assessments (calculations based on measurements of sufficient accuracy and precision to
verify the total material balance in some bulk handling facilities).
Analysis techniques for nuclear materials are typically destructive in that the sample is not replaced
once measured, and the samples themselves may be physically and/or chemically altered in the
course of either preparing for the measurement or conducting it. The main techniques used by the
IAEA for measurement of nuclear material samples include titration, coulometry, gravimetric
analysis, mass spectrometry, and densitometry. Associated functions include using calibrated
standards to verify NDA equipment, verification of operators' measurement equipment, overseeing
quality assurance for on-site laboratory measurements, and preparation and validation of large-sized
dried spikes for assay determination of liquid waste samples from reprocessing plants.
The USSP has funded many projects designed to improve the sensitivity and overall value of
analytical methods, including training for IAEA staff and new equipment procurements. Past
projects include automating a titration system, developing new methods to increase the detection
level for radionuclides and reduce the associated waste, and provision of and training on a
coulometry system with improved sensitivity. Current tasks include providing reference materials,
improving hybrid K-edge densitometry methods and supporting IAEA participation in New
Brunswick Laboratory's (NBL) program of sharing quality control samples for evaluation of the
SAL's analytical methods.
SAL currently analyzes 95% of nuclear material inspection samples taken during IAEA inspections
(about 800 per year), with little backup in the NWAL, resulting in an unacceptable level of risk. The
IAEA is working with two laboratories to qualify them for nuclear material analyses, but currently
there is no backup plan or other qualified laboratory in the event of a catastrophic shutdown of SAL
or a sudden surge in the number of nuclear materials samples. The USSP, along with other Member
States, elevated the IAEA's awareness of this potential single-point-of-failure problem during a
workshop requested by the IAEA to address a proposed laboratory upgrade and held in November
2006. Consequently, the Department of Safeguards is undertaking a study to analyze how best to
expand the NWAL in order to lower risk, maintain or improve quality and throughput, and do so at
a manageable cost.
Environmental Sample Analysis
The environmental sampling program is a vital component of the IAEA's strengthened safeguards
system. Analysis of environmental samples has been instrumental in detecting and identifying
undeclared nuclear activities in countries such as Iran and North Korea. The United States and the
USSP helped fund a number of activities and instruments central to the successful launch of this
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Hoffheins,B. The U.S. Support Program to IAEA Safeguards - Destructive Analysis, article, July 13, 2008; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc897101/m1/4/: accessed January 16, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.