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Laser Isotope Separation – The Genie is out of the Bottle. Olli Heinonen Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs John F. Kennedy School of Government 10 July 2012. Path to Nuclear Weapon Capability. All nuclear weapons programs took place parallel to civilian programs.

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Laser Isotope Separation – The Genie is out of the Bottle


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    1. Laser Isotope Separation – The Genie is out of the Bottle Olli Heinonen Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs John F. Kennedy School of Government 10 July 2012

    2. Path to Nuclear Weapon Capability • All nuclear weapons programs took place parallel to civilian programs. • Nuclear power alone is not a stepping stone to weapon capability, but mastering of sensitive technologies is: - Reprocessing - Uranium enrichment

    3. The Dilemma The overlap between the equipment, knowledge and materials required to develop nuclear weapons and to conduct civilian nuclear research or develop nuclear defences limits the effectiveness of verification measures and complicates information acquisition and analysis .

    4. Proliferation of LIS Technology • More than 20 countries extensively studied LIS. • AVLIS proliferation (Iran, South Korea) • MLIS proliferation (Iran) President Ahmadinejadstated on 7 February 2011 that Iran is possessing uranium laser enrichment technology.

    5. LIS Technology • Spectroscopy, • Laser technology, • Material processing technology, and • Integration.

    6. Spectroscopy • Acquisition of the necessary knowledge of the basic physical parameters governing the interaction between the laser and the isotopes to be separated. • Parameters are available in open literature. • Limited amount of uranium , 50-100 grams of uranium. • Capable of producing a few milligrams of enriched material. • Installation could be very small ,a single room. • A small but well-qualified staff.

    7. Laser Technology • AVLIS - Traditional solution based on tuneable dye lasers pumped by copper vapor lasers (CVL). - CVL lasers were not widely used for other applications. - Ti-Sapphire lasers (a tuneable solid state laser).

    8. Laser Technology • MLIS • The historical solution is based on CO2 lasers and a Raman cell shifter to generate the selective beam, together with ultra violet lasers, or in some cases non- selective IR lasers for multi photonic dissociation of the UF6. • Progress in the tuneability of CO2 lasers, free electron lasers in the IR range, non linear optical technologies, and the development of semiconductor lasers.

    9. Material Processing Technology • Solutions to generate the atomic or molecular gas stream. • AVLIS, material vaporized by an electronic beam (an electronic cathode/gun) impacting a metal ingot contained in a cooled crucible. - Large fraction of the vapor generated ,which is not subject to the laserbeams. - Recovery of enriched material cumbersome. - Difficult to safeguard material flows.

    10. Material Processing Technology • MLIS and SILEX , - the molecule gas stream has to be cooled. - the benefit from the use of available UF6 handling technology. - can take the advantage of safeguards monitoring approaches developed for gas centrifuge enrichment plants.

    11. Safeguardability Nuclear material flow monitoring can be applied to MLIS and SILEX to confirm: - non-diversion of declared flow, - the absence of clandestine enrichment, and - the absence of production of enrichments higher than declared. Like at gas centrifuge enrichment plants, there are no visible outside signatures telling about the purpose of the plant.

    12. Safeguardability The safeguards challenge of LIS are the small facilities: • Equipment can be indigenously produced. • Footprint is small. • Can be used to enrich from LEU to HEU. • Much of the technology is in open literature. • Cost is not an issue for a proliferator. • Can be used to produce stable isotopes; does not need to be declared to the IAEA.

    13. Summary • Much of LIS technology is already in public domain, and had been used by the proliferators. • Small clandestine and indigenously built facilities are hard to detect. • The IAEA verification and on-line monitoring scheme needs to be further developed to ensure timely detection;( valid also for gas centrifuge facilities.) • SILEX does not appears to change the non-proliferation challenges.