Tracing the Shadowy Origins of Nuclear Contraband

Science  01 Jun 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5522, pp. 1634
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5522.1634

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KARLSRUHE, GERMANY-- The Institute for Transuranium Elements (ITU) in this city near the French border has earned a reputation over the past decade as the go-to lab for probing the shadowy origins of seized nuclear materials. Unmasking a substance is the easy part; tracing it back to the source is far more difficult. A team of ITU scientists uses cutting-edge techniques to examine how enrichment, irradiation at nuclear power plants, and radioactive decay alter the isotopic composition of nuclear materials.