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Applications of Material Science in Support of Nuclear Forensics and Non-Proliferation

Image depicts Dr. Christopher Barrett, bearded caucasian man in a black shirt
Dr. Christopher Barrett
Program Manager
Savannah River National Laboratory
iSTEM Building 2, Room 1218
Materials Chemistry and Nanoscience Seminar
Physical Seminar

With globalization and the spreading availability of technologies, nuclear proliferation challenges continue to grow and evolve. Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) works to counter proliferation by providing scientific and technological solutions, as well as expert advice to combat emerging threats. Working with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and other government agencies, SRNL’s Global Security Directorate provides technical leadership and expertise in 3 main areas: (1) advance technologies to monitor and detect proliferation activities across the global, (2) safeguard against the spread of materials, technology and expertise that could be used for nuclear weapons, and (3) eliminate or secure inventories of surplus, weapons-usable nuclear material around the world.

In the nuclear safeguards mission, SRNL and its partners are tasked with formulating a range of fit-for-purpose, actinide particle standards that address the development of nuclear forensic instrumentation at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). These reference standards are directly shared with the Safeguards Analytical Laboratory (SAL) in Seibersdorf, Austria, where trace analysis of particulate material collected on environmental swipe samples is a cornerstone of the IAEA’s process of verifying member state compliance as part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In this presentation, considerations surrounding initial chemical separation, precursor formulation, and finely controlled colloidal synthesis of homogeneous uranium oxide particles will be outlined. Mechanistic details of the particle synthesis strategy and the thorough characterization of elemental composition, crystal structure, and isotopic profile will be discussed at length.


Dr. Christopher A. Barrett is a program manager at Savanah River National Laboratory where he currently serves as the portfolio manager for a suite of projects focused on the proliferation detection mission under the NNSA Defense Nuclear Non-proliferation R&D office. He spent close to ten years supporting various mission areas within national security as part of his previous appointment at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where he received the Brodzinski Early Career Award in 2020. His previous roles have included chief scientist for the PNNL Chemical Dynamics Laboratory Directed R&D Initiative, US DOE member of the International Particle Working Group, and director of the PNNL NWAL Particle Standards Laboratory. He received his PhD in chemistry from the University of Limerick in 2011 and completed his postdoctoral studies at the University of Georgia in 2013. He currently stewards a research portfolio encompassing materials science, radiochemistry, crystallography, and materials characterization.

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Head of Chemistry: Prof. Jason Locklin