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Development of Metallic Magnetic Calorimeters for Nuclear Safeguards Applications


Many nuclear safeguards applications could benefit from high-resolution gamma-ray spectroscopy achievable with metallic magnetic calorimeters. This dissertation covers the development of a system for these applications based on gamma-ray detectors developed at the University of Heidelberg. It demonstrates new calorimeters of this type, which achieved an energy resolution of 45.5 eV full-width at half-maximum at 59.54 keV, roughly ten times better than current state of the art high purity germanium detectors. This is the best energy resolution achieved with a gamma-ray metallic magnetic calorimeter at this energy to date. In addition to demonstrating a new benchmark in energy resolution, an experimental system for measuring samples with metallic magnetic calorimeters was constructed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. This system achieved an energy resolution of 91.3 eV full-width at half-maximum at 59.54 keV under optimal conditions. Using this system it was possible to characterize the linearity of the response, the count-rate limitations, and the energy resolution as a function of temperature of the new calorimeter. With this characterization it was determined that it would be feasible to measure Pu-242 in a mixed isotope plutonium sample. A measurement of a mixed isotope plutonium sample was performed over the course of 12 days with a single two-pixel metallic magnetic calorimeter. The relative concentration of Pu-242 in comparison to other plutonium isotopes was determined by direct measurement to less than half a percent accuracy. This is comparable with the accuracy of the best-case scenario using traditional indirect methods. The ability to directly measure the relative concentration of Pu-242 in a sample could enable more accurate accounting and detection of indications of undeclared activities in nuclear safeguards, a better constraint on source material in forensic samples containing plutonium, and improvements in verification in a future plutonium disposition treaty.

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