Studies of Prompt Diagnostic Signatures of Nuclear Detonations: An Update on the Teller Light Project

Dr. Dan Dale
Department of Physics, Nuclear and Electrical Engineering
Idaho State University

This talk is the second in a two part series on research in nuclear forensics at the Idaho Accelerator Center at Idaho State University. We are undertaking a program to study a particular effect of a nuclear detonation called Teller light, which is a flash of ultraviolet fluorescence that occurs before the shock wave or fireball form. This fluorescence is produced when prompt fission gamma rays, emitted during the last few tens of nanoseconds of the chain reaction, exit the assembly and Compton scatter in the surrounding air. Typical energies of these gamma rays are in the range of 1.5 to 2.0 MeV. Using electrons from low energy linear accelerators as surrogates for these Compton electrons, we are studying Teller light formation in complex environments such as would be found on a city street, and we are also studying its propagation. We are exploring what can be learned about a particular bomb’s characteristics by this effect, and drawing on the navigational techniques of honey bees, explore methods to determine the distance to and direction of a nuclear detonation. In addition, we will perform scoping studies to see if we can replicate some radiofrequency signatures of a nuclear detonation with our accelerators. 

This work is being performed under contract HDTRA1-17-1-004.