PRex: An Experiment to Investigate Detection of Near-field Particulate Deposition from a Simulated Underground Nuclear Weapons Test Vent

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A radioactive particulate release experiment to produce a near-field ground deposition representative of small-scale venting from an underground nuclear test was conducted to gather data in support of treaty capability development activities. For this experiment, a CO2‐driven “air cannon” was used to inject 140La, a radioisotope of lanthanum with 1.7‐d half-life and strong gamma-ray emissions, into the lowest levels of the atmosphere at ambient temperatures. Witness plates and air samplers were laid out in an irregular grid covering the area where the plume was anticipated to deposit based on climatological wind records. This experiment was performed at the Nevada National Security Site, where existing infrastructure, radiological procedures, and support personnel facilitated planning and execution of the work. A vehicle-mounted NaI(Tl) spectrometer and a polyvinyl toluene-based backpack instrument were used to survey the deposited plume. Hand-held instruments, including NaI(Tl) and lanthanum bromide scintillators and high purity germanium spectrometers, were used to take in situ measurements. Additionally, three soil sampling techniques were investigated and compared. The relative sensitivity and utility of sampling and survey methods are discussed in the context of on-site inspection.

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