Los Alamos resumes criticality experiments

June 17, 2011 at 2:13 PM
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LOS ALAMOS, N.M., June 17 (UPI) -- Scientists said they recently successfully replicated a nuclear experiment last conducted at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico in 2004.

In the experiment, a small amount of nuclear material was brought into a chain reaction using the Planet criticality assembly machine at the Nevada National Security Site, Los Alamos officials said Friday in a release.

The experiment restored the capability to perform critical operations that ended when Technical Area 18 at Los Alamos closed in 2005. Since then, the Los Alamos team has been moving four criticality assemblies and more than a ton of nuclear material to the Criticality Experiments Facility the lab operates at the Nevada National Security Site.

Experiments at Criticality Experiments Facility use several nuclear materials, ranging from small neutron-emitting sources for radiation-detection equipment to larger quantities of uranium and plutonium for criticality experiments, scientists said. The machines run at power levels well below those attained by nuclear reactors.

The experiments support nuclear security missions, such as validating performance of specific radiation detection instruments and providing training for criticality safety engineers and nuclear material handlers, Los Alamos said.

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