LONDON – Britain is experimenting with a device that can detect smuggled nuclear substances by analyzing particles generated by cosmic rays, according to the Home Office.
The detector, which the British government hopes to deploy at airports and seaports, will monitor particles called muons that are produced when cosmic rays hit the atmosphere. The muons change direction when they penetrate heavy radioactive substances such as uranium and plutonium. By analyzing these patterns, atomic materials can be detected even if they are concealed in a container made of lead, which is typically used to shield radiation.
A prototype is ready for testing and several countries have expressed interest in adopting the device to prevent terrorists from obtaining materials needed to launch nuclear attacks, said the Home Office, which oversees immigration and security.
The Atomic Weapons Establishment, an organization belonging to the British Defense Ministry, has been refining the detection technology, which is based on an approach first used at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States.
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