It can contribute to preventing global nuclear proliferation.
A public research organization in Korea installed facilities that can precisely analyze ultra trace level of nuclear materials contained in nuclear inspection samples collected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as part of its nuclear non-proliferation endeavor.
The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (Minister: Choi Mun-kee) and Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC, Chairman: Lee Un-chul) said on September 11 that Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI, President: Jung Youn-ho) built and began to operate the Clean Laboratory for Analysis of Safeguards Samples (CLASS) that can distinguish whether one conducted nuclear activities and type of nuclear material by accurately analyzing nuclear inspection samples provided by the IAEA.
The CLASS is an international level facility that can accurately analyze ultra trace level and isotope rates contained in samples with advanced analysis equipments and clean environment that can prevent contamination of samples.
After conducting an R&D project commissioned by the NSSC as part of its radiation safety technology development program, KAERI satisfied technological requirements of the IAEA by identifying total amount and isotope rates of less than 1 nano gram (one-billionth of a gram) of uranium and less than 1 pico gram (one-trillionth of a gram) of plutonium contained in samples, within error range, provided by the IAEA. As a result, the CLASS was approved in December 2012 to participate in aggregate analysis activities of the ‘IAEA-Network of Analytical Laboratories (NWAL)’, an organization of analyzing nuclear inspection samples in the IAEA.
Equipped with the CLASS technology and facilities, KAERI is now able to conduct activities of analyzing international nuclear inspection samples provided by the IAEA in this year. And it is ready to participate in particle analysis projects of the NWAL.
The CLASS is housed in a 3-story building (including 2 ground floors and a basement floor) with total floor space of 1,400 square meters, which was constructed in 3 years, investing 4 billion won.
Core facilities are installed in clean areas of the building that can prevent inspection samples from being contaminated by outside environment, and they are divided into the class 100 area that conducts chemical pre-treatment of samples and class 1,000 area that analyzes pre-processed samples using state-of-the-art equipments.
These facilities are designed to prevent nuclear inspection-related materials from leaking to outside by maintaining lower atmospheric pressure than outside while keeping uniformed cleanness, temperature and humidity around the clock using special air conditioning equipments. Advanced nuclear material sample analysis equipments installed at the CLASS include thermal ionization mass spectrometer that analyzes isotope rate in ultra trace level nuclear materials, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer, secondary ion mass spectrometer, total reflection X-ray fluorescence analyzer that can identify elements organizing samples, and gamma ray spectrometer.
Now that it has built the CLASS, KAERI can make contribution in the international community commensurate with Korea’s status of an advanced nuclear technology country by participating in activities of analyzing nuclear inspection samples and global nuclear non-proliferation initiatives in cooperation with the IAEA. It will also contribute to improving nuclear transparency in Korea by analyzing inspection samples collected from nuclear power facilities in the country.