Archaeology with Radioactive Waste


Picture of a man with beard © Copyright: Antonio Figueroa


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  High-Level Waste Tanks. These contain a complex mixture of fission products and chemicals used in the spent fuel separation process Copyright: © Savannah River Laboratory

Information about the past operation of reactors can be obtained by measuring the isotopic composition of the produced radioactive waste. This history is characterized by a group of parameters -eg. fuel burnup, time after irradiation etc. Their reconstruction is in fact a complex inverse problem. We base our solution on the Bayesian framework, in which prior expert knowledge and a declaration provided by a state in question can be combined with comprehensive mathematical models and reactor simulations together with measurements of isotope ratios of nuclear reprocessing waste. The reconstructed parameters can be further used in the re-simulation of the reactors operation to obtain estimates on the total plutonium production and its uncertainty for a given reactor.

These results can be used to verify the baseline declarations and possibly detect undeclared production activities, purposeful or involuntary, that could jeopardize disarmament efforts.

  General scheme for Radioactive Waste Archaeology Copyright: © Washington State Department of Ecology - Antonio Figueroa