Nuclear Bomb Detector

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amunich
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Nuclear Bomb Detector

Post by amunich » Tue Jun 19, 2012 4:18 am

I've recently acquired something which I can best describe as a cold war era nuclear bomb detector. Whether or not such a device is legal to own is a matter of debate, but nonetheless I have here a few pictures.


On the outside, it looks like an innocent, albeit slightly heavy suitcase.

http://i.imgur.com/udQTK.jpg



Inside though one finds no boxer briefs, but rather a tape recorder, a microphone and a big aluminum chassis.

http://i.imgur.com/cN0Ojh.jpg



Inside one of the small aluminum boxes there appears to be a high voltage power supply, transformer, cockroft walton etc.

http://i.imgur.com/KsRYWh.jpg



And in the other; a very fancy amplifier. Sadly I have yet to get any sign of life out of these circuits :-/

http://i.imgur.com/UjNNC.jpg



Inside one end of the metal chassis we have what looks like an array of HV feedthroughs.

http://i.imgur.com/t7HDS.jpg



And in the other side, HPDE neutron moderators and 27 1" diameter, 1.4' long aluminum tubes. Yep, this device is now officially a very sensitive nuke detector.

http://i.imgur.com/J848P.jpg



I'm rather clueless about the history of this device. If anyone would care to shed a little light on it [carl, richard?], such an act would be greatly appreciated!

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Carl Willis
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Re: Nuclear Bomb Detector

Post by Carl Willis » Tue Jun 19, 2012 6:02 am

Hi Adam,

I'm not familiar with this. I concur with the assessment that it is a plutonium detector. Who made the tubes? What do you know about the history, i.e. from whom did you get it? It's definitely an interesting find.

-Carl
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Steven Sesselmann
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Re: Nuclear Bomb Detector

Post by Steven Sesselmann » Tue Jun 19, 2012 6:03 am

Can't see why it would be illegal to own an antique neutron detector, nice find in any case (pun intended).

If the tubes are still good, you could modernize that thing with a GS-1100A and an iPod.

I imagine it was shipped along with the general luggage in the hull of an aircraft, and then the tape analyzed for neutron pulses after the journey.

Of course at 10,000 feet there are plenty of neutrons, so how would you destunguish between background and fissionable material?

It is possible that statistical analysis of coincidences could reveal fissionable material, although the equipment looks pretty crude.

Steven

http://www.beeresearch.com.au
http://www.gammaspectacular.com - Gamma Spectrometry Systems
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Steven_Sesselmann - Various papers and patents on RG

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Richard Hull
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Re: Nuclear Bomb Detector

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Jun 19, 2012 2:33 pm

Interesting little toy. It might be a college graduate project made on the cheap years ago to record radiation (neutron-gamma) received on normal flights that went to various levels. Why hire a special jet when you can forward luggage back and forth on selected flights and recover your data later? For sure, this puppy is old. (70s-80s) No ICs and no surface mount.

As for the real reason......It depends who bought it from who, the first time it was sold. Without that info., we are guessing.

The neutron maxima occurs at about 10-15 miles up. Atmospheric density is high enough to start staring cosmics and water vapor is there to slow the neutrons throughout this layer. It is rare for fast neutrons to make it to the ground. Too much water and air density near the surface.
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
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Re: Nuclear Bomb Detector

Post by taylorw » Tue Jun 19, 2012 5:41 pm

Cool find! You hit the hammer on the nail with the description. These were developed at LASL for use by the Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST). You can read LASL publication LA-7108 on these suitcases here:

http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/lan ... 311836.pdf

Containing a sensitive array of 3He proportional tubes, they would detect the neutrons from the 240Pu contaminant in Weapons Grade Plutonium. WGPu yields neutrons through it's Spontaneous Fission decay route. Typically WGPu contains about 6 % 240Pu. ("Super-grade" WGPu contains much less of the 240Pu contaminant. The US Navy uses super-grade WGPu to keep neutron dose rates low where living quarters are in close proximity to weapons).

NEST would use these in response to extortion threats involving nuclear weapons or RDDs involving Plutonium. The Remote Sensing Laboratory at Nellis AFB now does most of the hardware development for DOE's response mission. They led the response to Fukushima sending a C-17 filled with equipment and personnel to Japan after Fukushima. They also will deploy to events of national importance such as Inaugurations, Super Bowls, etc. Now however, the heavy suitcases have been replaced with canvas backpacks. See the "PackEye":

http://www.thermoscientific.com/ecomm/s ... reId=11152

I am really curious about how you came upon this suitcase! I never thought I would see one. Any information on it's history. I'm not really too sure how many of these were produced and deployed.

- Taylor

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Re: Nuclear Bomb Detector

Post by taylorw » Tue Jun 19, 2012 5:41 pm

Cool find! You hit the hammer on the nail with the description. These were developed at LASL for use by the Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST). You can read LASL publication LA-7108 on these suitcases here:

http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/lan ... 311836.pdf

Containing a sensitive array of 3He proportional tubes, they would detect the neutrons from the 240Pu contaminant in Weapons Grade Plutonium. WGPu yields neutrons through it's Spontaneous Fission decay route. Typically WGPu contains about 6 % 240Pu. ("Super-grade" WGPu contains much less of the 240Pu contaminant. The US Navy uses super-grade WGPu to keep neutron dose rates low where living quarters are in close proximity to weapons).

NEST would use these in response to extortion threats involving nuclear weapons or RDDs involving Plutonium. The Remote Sensing Laboratory at Nellis AFB now does most of the hardware development for DOE's response mission. They led the response to Fukushima sending a C-17 filled with equipment and personnel to Japan after Fukushima. They also will deploy to events of national importance such as Inaugurations, Super Bowls, etc. Now however, the heavy suitcases have been replaced with canvas backpacks. See the "PackEye":

http://www.thermoscientific.com/ecomm/s ... reId=11152

I am really curious about how you came upon this suitcase! I never thought I would see one. Any information on it's history. I'm not really too sure how many of these were produced and deployed.

- Taylor

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Re: Nuclear Bomb Detector

Post by adrian.f.h » Tue Jun 19, 2012 6:13 pm

Hello,
judging from the electronic parts (actually there is an IC as well as modern trimmers) I don't think it's older than 25 years. Those circuit boards remind me of my ALC60X argon laser PSU. Maybe some of parts are older. (low budget => recycling?)

So I think it's a highly interesting late or even post cold war device.

Adrian

Jerry Biehler
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Re: Nuclear Bomb Detector

Post by Jerry Biehler » Tue Jun 19, 2012 7:59 pm

Looks like it was probably made in 71 or a little later. One of the cans date mark is 7041, 41st week of 1970. Electrolytics are usually marked as well.

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Re: Nuclear Bomb Detector

Post by amunich » Wed Jun 20, 2012 2:07 am

While trying to get the HV oscillator working I noticed that only 5V was going into the voltage regulator IC... which at least needs 9.5 to run. http://pdf1.alldatasheet.com/datasheet- ... 1723G.html

Since the entire thing runs on 4 C batteries I figured there must be a voltage booster of some sort in there. It wasn't in any of the boxes, but the tape recorder looked like it had been modified...

http://i.imgur.com/g93gZ.jpg

Well look at that, a crystal oscillator and logic ICs. All Cmos, made by RCA. It still oscillates since there's a 1Mhz clipped sine on the crystal. This might be a 1Hz clock, which would explain the 1Hz beeps that are recorded on the tape...

These ICs... were expensive. This tape recorder, a stereo, remote controlled cassette desk came out in 1969. Also, very expensive. There's no way a grad student could afford to buy any of this, nor would they put the effort into etching these very nice PCBs. Or for that matter, folding, riveting and *welding* sheet aluminum.

I'm pretty certain this thing is a los alamos prototype.

Still, I have no idea how to get this HV oscillator going. One mosfet, one BJT, no inductor and a 1.2Gohms feedback resistor into the mosfet gate. The hell is this.




Edit: Yep, 1Hz clock. I think these beeps just raised the awesome factor by about 200.

http://i.imgur.com/6kM2u.jpg

http://i.imgur.com/jTjgg.jpg

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Dennis P Brown
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Re: Nuclear Bomb Detector

Post by Dennis P Brown » Wed Jun 20, 2012 2:55 am

That does appear all 70's vintage. I see some of the Caps have KV on them - a simple voltage multiplier?

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