EU Science Hub

New laboratory for improved nuclear safeguards

Jun 01 2012

The JRC's nuclear safeguards activities will be significantly improved by the opening of a new analytical laboratory for nuclear micro-particles inaugurated today at the JRC's Institute for Transuranium elements (ITU), located in Karlsruhe. European Commission and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) representatives attended the event, together with relevant stakeholders.


With this state-of-the-art facility, JRC scientists can detect within a few hours the existence of nuclear particles in samples taken during safeguards inspections and determine their enrichment level. This allows international safeguards authorities to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear activities.

Sample preparation under clean room conditions
©EU, 2012
The JRC manages one of the few laboratories in the world that can provide the highly specialised analytical methods and techniques needed for nuclear safeguards purposes.

In Europe, the JRC-ITU supports the Commission's Directorate General for Energy in the implementation of the Euratom Treaty Safeguards. DG Energy ensures that within the EU, nuclear material is not diverted from its intended use and that safeguarding obligations agreed with third parties are complied with. At international level, the European Commission cooperates with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the control of nuclear materials and facilities in order to avoid proliferation or diversion.

Large Geometry – Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer for the analysis of particles which contain nuclear materials
©EU, 2012

The new Large Geometry-Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (LG-SIMS) instrument combines speed, sensitivity and the highest levels of accuracy and quality control. The LG-SIMS is equipped with a newly developed Automated Particle Measurement (APM) screening that allows for fast automated searching and measurement of fissile material particles, mainly uranium, in a matrix of millions of other particles, turning it into an invaluable asset to fight against undeclared nuclear activities.


The new instrument, a CAMECA IMS 1280HR, is equipped with newly developed automated particle search software that enhances the instruments ability in detecting trace amounts of uranium
©EU, 2012

These new devices will be mainly used to search for traces of nuclear materials in particles collected on cotton swipes during nuclear safeguards inspections. This allows nuclear safeguard authorities to verify not only the correctness of a state's declaration about its nuclear activity, but also its completeness, confirming the absence of undeclared activities by correlating the measured isotopic composition with the declared operations at nuclear facilities.

In addition, the new laboratory will play a key role for research projects linked to the production of certified particle reference materials, which will in turn allow other laboratories to improve their analyses.