The Xenon International monitoring system, designed to help scientists protect us from illicit nuclear testing, has earned an R&D 100 Award for Teledyne Brown Engineering, based in Huntsville, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Designed for use at International Monitoring System stations in support of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, the Xenon International system detects radioxenon isotopes.
The treaty, opened for signature by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996, bans both civilian and military nuclear explosions. As of this year, 168 states have signed the treaty, including the United States, but it will not take effect until it is ratified by 44 specific nations. Of those eight remain holdouts — China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, Iran, Egypt and the United States.
The automated system collects, separates, purifies, quantifies and performs nuclear counting of radioxenon isotopes indicative of nuclear explosions.
“Detection of xenon isotopes is a proven and important method for distinguishing nuclear explosions from earthquakes and detecting undeclared, underground testing,” TBE said in announcing the award.
“We are thrilled to receive this award honoring a technology that represents excellence in science, engineering, and manufacturing,” said Jan Hess, president of Teledyne Brown Engineering. “The partnership between TBE and PNNL led to an enhanced, robust and maintainable instrument that will enable early detection and inform decision makers in the case of an incident. We are also excited about offering this system as a commercially available instrument.”
The TBE-PNNL team has created two prototype systems that are now undergoing performance testing.