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Title: Argon Collection And Purification For Proliferation Detection

In order to determine whether a seismic event was a declared/undeclared underground nuclear weapon test, environmental samples must be taken and analyzed for signatures that are unique to a nuclear explosion. These signatures are either particles or gases. Particle samples are routinely taken and analyzed under the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) verification regime as well as by individual countries. Gas samples are analyzed for signature gases, especially radioactive xenon. Underground nuclear tests also produce radioactive argon, but that signature is not well monitored. A radioactive argon signature, along with other signatures, can more conclusively determine whether an event was a nuclear test. This project has developed capabilities for collecting and purifying argon samples for ultra-low-background proportional counting. SRNL has developed a continuous gas enrichment system that produces an output stream containing 97% argon from whole air using adsorbent separation technology (the flow diagram for the system is shown in the figure). The vacuum swing adsorption (VSA) enrichment system is easily scalable to produce ten liters or more of 97% argon within twelve hours. A gas chromatographic separation using a column of modified hydrogen mordenite molecular sieve has been developed that can further purify the sample to better than 99%more » purity after separation from the helium carrier gas. The combination of these concentration and purification systems has the capability of being used for a field-deployable system for collecting argon samples suitable for ultra-low-background proportional counting for detecting nuclear detonations under the On-Site Inspection program of the CTBTO verification regime. The technology also has applications for the bulk argon separation from air for industrial purposes such as the semi-conductor industry.« less
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  1. Savannah River Site (SRS), Aiken, SC (United States). Savannah River National Lab. (SRNL)
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Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Savannah River Site (SRS), Aiken, SC (United States). Savannah River National Lab. (SRNL)
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Country of Publication:
United States