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Improving detection of nuclear smuggling goal of computer model of mechanical engineer
Date:11/27/2007

at Los Alamos considers smugglers passage through pedestrian, automobile, rail, airport and sea crossings. Los Alamos also uses Mortons nuclear smuggling model for detective work when a smuggler is captured. The goal is to go beyond speculation about the source of the material and other details.

Its common for a smuggler to transport really small amounts of nuclear material, said Morton, who holds an Engineering Foundation Endowed Professorship. The danger is that this nuclear material actually represents a larger mass at risk of being stolen if a buyer likes the original sample provided.

With the $1.9 million from the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office of the Department of Homeland Security, Morton and fellow mechanical engineering faculty will spend five years expanding his computer model for placing radiation detectors with detailed information about smuggling scenarios and models of smugglers strategic behavior. Assistant Professor Erich Schneider will build the computer models description of the nuclear material being smuggled and of how the radiation detectors recognize concealed material. Associate Professor Elmira Popova will provide probability calculations for the computer model, and run computer simulations to test it.

In other work, Morton is applying $270,000 from the National Science Foundation to develop a related computer model approach to guide various decisions at other organizations. For example, he and Popova are helping the South Texas Project prioritize capital-improvement projects at the nuclear power plant in Bay City, Texas.

Morton is also working with Integrative Biology and Philosophy Professor Sahotra Sarkar at The University of Texas at Austin to test a computer model for decisions about creating conservation area networks to protect wildlife. For example, the modeling helps decide specific areas to protect in the Balcones Canyonlands. The additions expand existing wildlife refuges and preserves in t
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Contact: Barbra Rodriguez
brodriguez@mail.utexas.edu
512-471-7541
University of Texas at Austin
Source:Eurekalert

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