Attribution Of Separated Plutonium Using Machine Learning Techniques

Patrick J O'Neal - Texas A&M University
Sunil S. Chirayath - Texas A&M University
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Plutonium (Pu) source attribution would be a powerful tool to support nuclear nonproliferation efforts. This capability to find the source of a Pu sample would act as a deterrent to smuggling efforts, and also help regulatory agencies verify declared nuclear activities. Work at Texas A&M University yielded a nuclear forensics methodology, which is capable of determining separated Pu’s reactor of origin, fuel burnup, and the time since irradiation (TSI)—three parameters of interest. The methodology used a set of ten intra-element isotopic ratios found in separated Pu, which was compared to a library of isotopic ratio values produced using neutronics simulations for reactors of interest. By calculating the probability that unknown Pu sample’s isotopic ratio set matched a set in the library, the methodology could predict the three parameters of interest of the sample. One shortcoming of this methodology was an inability to correctly attribute spoofed Pu, where Pu sourced from two different reactors or two different fuel burnup levels are mixed. A new methodology to rectify this vulnerability using machine learning (ML) technique is developed, instead of the maximum likelihood calculation previously used and the results are satisfactory. The ML approach leverages the existing simulated data for training the algorithm, but use them efficiently by only using intra-element isotope ratios that contribute to the attribution one of the three parameters at a time. Previously, all isotope ratios were used to attribute all three parameters together. The new methodology attributes the Pu parameters in three steps, one for each parameter, rather than resolving all of the three parameters simultaneously like the previous maximum likelihood approach. First, a support vector machine classifier with a set of seven isotopic ratios finds the reactor of origin and a set of regression models trained using gaussian process predicts the burnup with a different set of seven isotopes. Last, TSI is calculated analytically using decay equations. Thus far, the new methodology is capable of attributing pure Pu samples and has been validated using experimental data. The next step will to be augment the classifier training data set with spoofed Pu data.