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23 May 2011 Principles and status of neutron-based inspection technologies
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Nuclear based explosive inspection techniques can detect a wide range of substances of importance for a wide range of objectives. For national and international security it is mainly the detection of nuclear materials, explosives and narcotic threats. For Customs Services it is also cargo characterization for shipment control and customs duties. For the military and other law enforcement agencies it could be the detection and/or validation of the presence of explosive mines, improvised explosive devices (IED) and unexploded ordnances (UXO). The inspection is generally based on the nuclear interactions of the neutrons (or high energy photons) with the various nuclides present and the detection of resultant characteristic emissions. These can be discrete gamma lines resulting from the thermal neutron capture process (n,γ) or inelastic neutron scattering (n,n'γ) occurring with fast neutrons. The two types of reactions are generally complementary. The capture process provides energetic and highly penetrating gamma rays in most inorganic substances and in hydrogen, while fast neutron inelastic scattering provides relatively strong gamma-ray signatures in light elements such as carbon and oxygen. In some specific important cases unique signatures are provided by the neutron capture process in light elements such as nitrogen, where unusually high-energy gamma ray is produced. This forms the basis for key explosive detection techniques. In some cases the elastically scattered source (of mono-energetic) neutrons may provide information on the atomic weight of the scattering elements. The detection of nuclear materials, both fissionable (e.g., 238U) and fissile (e.g., 235U), are generally based on the fissions induced by the probing neutrons (or photons) and detecting one or more of the unique signatures of the fission process. These include prompt and delayed neutrons and gamma rays. These signatures are not discrete in energy (typically they are continua) but temporally and energetically significantly different from the background, thus making them readily distinguishable. The penetrability of neutrons as probes and signatures as well as the gamma ray signatures make neutron interrogation applicable to the inspection of large conveyances such as cars, trucks, marine containers and also smaller objects like explosive mines concealed in the ground. The application of nuclear interrogation techniques greatly depends on operational requirements. For example explosive mines and IED detection clearly require one-sided inspection, which excludes transmission based inspection (e.g., transmission radiography) and greatly limits others. The technologies developed over the last decades are now being implemented with good results. Further advances have been made over the last several years that increase the sensitivity, applicability and robustness of these systems. The principle, applications and status of neutron-based inspection techniques will be reviewed.
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Tsahi Gozani "Principles and status of neutron-based inspection technologies", Proc. SPIE 8017, Detection and Sensing of Mines, Explosive Objects, and Obscured Targets XVI, 801711 (23 May 2011);

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