IFE14: Detecting the smoking gun – how voluntary contributions make a difference

In addition to the regular budget of US$ 10 million for the Integrated Field Exercise (IFE14), voluntary and in-kind contributions by CTBTO Member States for this exercise through the provision of equipment amount to another US$ 10 million. This state-of-the-art equipment makes a crucial difference by augmenting the CTBTO’s capabilities to carry out most of the 17 on-site inspection techniques foreseen by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Getting ready for a field day of noble gas sampling.

A case in point is the field laboratory for radioactive noble gases. This lab analyses gas samples collected in the inspection area for traces of certain isotopes of radioactive noble gases, the presence of which would provide unambiguous proof that a nuclear explosion has taken place.

Sampling for underground radioactive noble gas.

This collaboration has been very successful. The instrumentation inside of the container is working quite well. We’ve been able to exercise many samples on the xenon system, and soon we’ll be exercising argon samples on the argon system.

This unique collaboration brings together a highly sensitive analyzer for radioxenon developed by researchers in Sweden with funding from the European Union, and a sophisticated analyzer for the radioactive noble gas argon 37 developed by China, the only field-mobile device of its kind in the world. Both devices work in synergy in a single work flow.

Upon return from the field, all equipment and personnel is screened for contamination.

Inspection team and Inspected State Party (in red) jointly certify the samples' authenticity.

Additionally, a second Chinese system also separates the radioxenon, which is measured on either a Russian-developed Silica Pin detector, or by the high purity germanium detectors provided by Britain’s Atomic Weapons Establishment. All equipment is housed in a special field lab container developed by the U.S. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

A total of nine countries plus the European Union have provided contributions in kind to IFE14: Canada, China, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. See complete list of equipment (PDF) provided as contributions in kind for IFE14.

Inspection team member Derek Haas connecting the pressurized bottles containing the gas samples to the lab equipment.

The Chinese-built argon-37 detector (left) and Swedish-built radioxenon device working hand in hand in a U.S.-built lab container.

IFE14 in Jordan will prove that CTBT on-site inspections are a viable deterrent against would-be Treaty violators. With a range of new techniques envisaged by the CTBT but never used before in on-site inspection-related tests and exercises, IFE14 will take our capabilities to a new level.

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