In Brief: Nuclear explosion debris may reveal bomb's origin

November 9, 2010

Nuclear explosion debris may contain microscopic evidence that could help investigators determine the origin of the bomb, according to a study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Albert J. Fahey and colleagues conducted a of Trinitite, the glassed ground debris formed by the United States Army's 1945 nuclear detonation at the "Trinity" test site in New Mexico.

The authors obtained a detailed profile of Trinitite's composition and molecular structure by using advanced techniques such as , x-ray fluorescence, and secondary ion mass spectrometry to measure the concentrations of trace elements and isotopes.

After accounting for the fissile material and local natural rocks and minerals, the authors identified an isotopic signature of a known component from the Trinity device that the explosion had incorporated into the Trinitite sample.

The study demonstrates that investigators can microanalyze the debris of a nuclear detonation to reveal details about the specific materials used to construct the weapon, according to the authors.

These details, the authors suggest, could then help trace the weapon to its origin.

Explore further: New study evaluates methods to prevent importation of illicit nuclear materials

More information: "Postdetonation nuclear debris for attribution," by Albert J. Fahey, Cynthia J. Zeissler, Dale E. Newbury, Jeff Davis, and Richard M. Lindstrom, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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2 comments

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fixer
not rated yet Nov 09, 2010
I plain don't believe this.
Are we talking about the the country of manufacture or the people who deployed it?
Conventional bomb fragments can be identified if you can find them, but a few fused atoms here and there would be meaningless.
theken101
not rated yet Nov 10, 2010
They're talking about tracing the source of the radioactive material used in the bomb. There is no practical way, thus far, to trace the people who deploy it...

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