Sensitivity of Isotopic Separation Techniques

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Understandably so, certain isotopic separation techniques are going to be sensitive (U-235, U-233, Li-6) because of their relationship to nuclear weapons. Would any other isotopic separation techniques fall under the wing of any regulating agency in the United States (NRC, NNSA, etc.)? For example... Deuterium, Boron, Oxygen, Silicon, etc.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Astronuc
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No. Isotopic separation of fissile materials or materials like Li-6, which could be used for a thermonuclear weapon, are of greatest concern from the standpoint of national and global security. There is no such concern for isotopes of other elements. The issue there is purely economic.

The control of isotopic separation (enrichment) technology is because the same technology can be used for separating weapons material from less useful isotopes. The more efficient the enrichment process, the tighter the control.

The particlular technology falls under the regulation of the NNSA, while the safety issues of enrichment of fissile materials falls under the NRC.
 
  • #3
Perhaps I misunderstand. Should the answer be "depends on the technology" whether or not it is viable method for said notable materials? i.e. chemical property differences instead of pure mass separation techniques?

Would not Boron-10 separation be of concern since Boron-11 is a potential fusion fuel?
 
  • #4
Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
18,706
1,720
Perhaps I misunderstand. Should the answer be "depends on the technology" whether or not it is viable method for said notable materials? i.e. chemical property differences instead of pure mass separation techniques?

Would not Boron-10 separation be of concern since Boron-11 is a potential fusion fuel?
Boron enrichment is typically done chemically-gravimetrically because there is a relatively big fractional difference between B-10 and B-11. For isotopes of heavy elements, e.g., U-235 and U-238, the fractional difference is smaller.

The sensitivity does depend on the technology. The most sensitive technology is Laser Isotopic Separation techniques like AVLIS and SILEX.

. . . .
Security Framework

The SILEX technology is classified up to the Secret Restricted Data level. Access authorization to classified information will be in accordance with 10 CFR Part 25, "Access Authorization for Licensee Personnel." A "Q" clearance and need to know is required. The NRC approves personnel security clearances following a background check.

Protection of Classified Information will be in accordance with 10 CFR Part 95, "Facility Security Clearance and Safeguarding of National Security Information and Restricted Data." Guidance for preparing Standard Practice Procedures Plans for classified information security is available. Transmission of classified matter will be in accordance with 10 CFR Part 95. Related guidance is set forth in the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response (NSIR) Division of Security Interim Staff Guidance - 01, "Staff Review Procedure for Transportation Security Plans for Classified Matter Shipments." Information security within the NRC will be in accordance with Management Directive 12.2, "NRC Classified Information Security Program."

. . . .
http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/commission/secys/2007/secy2007-0031/2007-0031scy.html
 
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