Fighting to Protect Our Country


University of Notre Dame | November 21, 2017

Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency has tracked 2,500 trafficking cases of nuclear material. While there has yet to be a detonation of a dirty bomb, the threat remains present. In the unlikely event of a nuclear attack on American soil, Notre Dame engineering professor Antonio Simonetti makes one thing clear: The perpetrator could and would be found.

Simonetti is a geochemist who specializes in characterizing the chemical and isotopic composition of materials. Traditionally, that involves studying rocks and minerals, which Simonetti did for many years. In 2011 he pivoted to assess nuclear materials like trinitite at the request of National Nuclear Security Agency. In that role, he used laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) to study blast melt from the first atomic bomb test in New Mexico in 1945 and precisely identified where remnants of plutonium fuel resided after the explosion.

“It’s helpful because we then know where to look if a similar situation were to occur,” he says.

Now he’s funded by a $1.75 million grant from the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office at the Department of Homeland Security. The five-year project titled “Advancement of Nuclear Forensic Science” specifically seeks to characterize radioactive materials to link them to their sources and improve detection techniques. With a wider lens, the work is serving as a deterrent to nuclear proliferation and acts of terrorism.

Read more here.

 by Daily Domer Staff

Posted In: Features