September 10, 2020 Christina Kitova
• Mephi developed technology using Red-100 detector.
• The plutonium detection will include the weapons grade levels.
• The technology will be utilized next year in the Tver region first.
Russia announced a device that can scan nuclear reactors at a distance. The device is developed and designed by the Mephi Nuclear University. The surveillance can be carried out without needing permission to access the facility. It is essentially the RED-100 neutrino detector.
National research nuclear University is one of the first two national research universities in Russia (along with MISIS), established on April 8, 2009 on the basis of the Moscow Institute of engineering and physics (state University). The history goes back to the Moscow mechanical Institute of ammunition (MMIB), founded on November 22, 1942.
National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (Moscow Engineering Physics Institute) is one of the most recognized technical universities in Russia. MEPhI was founded in 1942 as the Moscow Mechanical Institute of Munitions.
The RED-100 detector uses 200 kilograms of liquid xenon cooled to -105 °C as the working substance. The entire installation is comparable in size to a human and can be mounted on a car. Such a machine could stop many kilometers away from a neutrino-emitting reactor and get information about it without attracting anyone’s attention.
The team does not need to be located on the nuclear station grounds. Additionally, this technology can be also mounted on drones in the future. It should be noted that as of now, the technology is not being mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles.
Furthermore, one of the most unique capabilities is the detection of plutonium. The plutonium detection will include weapons grade levels. The most common isotope, Pu-239, is produced when the most common isotope of uranium, U-238, absorbs a neutron and then quickly decays to plutonium.
It is this plutonium isotope that is most useful in making nuclear weapons, and it is produced in varying quantities in virtually all operating nuclear reactors. Project Manager Alexander Bolozdyn, in an interview with Russian news said:
Eight sovereign states— the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea— have publicly announced successful detonation of nuclear weapons. Another, Israel, is widely suspected to possess nuclear weapons.
“Neutrinos are elementary particles formed in large quantities during nuclear reactions. To guarantee that the neutrinos [coming] from the nuclear reactor will be stopped, a light-year-thick wall of lead will be required, so that they can easily pass through the protection of the nuclear power plant. Based on the analysis of neutrino radiation, we can understand both the isotopic composition of the reaction and what is happening right now in the center of the reactor core.”
Neutrinos easily pass through any walls, since they rarely interact with matter. But for the same reason, they are difficult to catch. This requires bulky multi-ton installations. The largest of them uses a cubic kilometer of Antarctic ice.
Thus far, the device is in the final stages of being tested in the Mephi laboratory. The technology will be utilized next year in the Tver region first. There is a large interest in the device. This technology could be revolutionary to be able to conduct testing, including in countries like Saudi Arabia.
This is a huge announcement and it can be a great aid to understand and analyze capabilities of the myriad of nations pertaining to the weapons of mass destruction. This is especially true with escalation of Iran, North Korea, and possibly even China to expand nuclear weapons production.