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Count on KAERI for IAEA Nuclear Inspection Sample Analysis

- The worlds third atomic energy institute to be fully certified as the IAEA-NWAL -

- Capable of playing a pivotal role in the verification of North Koreas denuclearization -


With hopes on the rise for North Koreas denuclearization, global attention is turning toward the question of denuclearization verification. Recently, one of Koreas government-funded research agencies has been granted approval to take part in any future denuclearization verification effort that may be forthcoming.


On August 19th, the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), headed by President Jaejoo Ha, announced that it has received approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to join the particle analysis sector using Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS) of IAEAs Network of Analytical Laboratories (NWAL).


NWAL is solely responsible for conducting precision analyses of all nuclear inspection samples collected by the IAEA. Becoming part of the institute needs to fulfill rigorous verification of technological and facility-based requirements. NWAL has made available two analytical sectors for other research bodies to join bulk analysis and particle analysis. The particle analysis sector is subdivided into fission track (FT)-thermal ionization mass spectrometry (TIMS) and secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS).

Bulk Analysis: a verification method used to identify illegal nuclear activities by measuring and analyzing the total amount of nuclear material contained in a sample, as well as isotropic ratios.

Particle Analysis: a verification method used to obtain detailed information of nuclear activities (for example, enrichment and reprocessing) and facilities.

FT-TIMS: a method that uses TIMS to analyze particles containing nuclear material which are generated by the irradiation of neutrons among all particles collected from a sample using Fission Track method. It is one of the most reliable analytical methods in nuclear activity detection and is capable of accurate and precise high-sensitivity particle detection.

SIMS: an analytical method used to detect particles containing nuclear material and to measure isotropic ratios by loading particles collected from a specimen into a SIMS equipment. The method has advantages in that the sample preparation is simple and the analysis time is short, but it has disadvantages regarding the analysis of plutonium and in that it is incapable of providing an accurate and precise analysis when the particle diameter of a sample is 1 m or smaller.


Following its joining the bulk analysis sector and FT-TIMS particle analysis sector, Korea has become a member state for the SIMS particle analysis sector. With this achievement, Korea has become the third member country of the IAEA-NWAL to be certified following France and Japan.


This accomplishment shows that Koreas trace-analytical technology for nuclear materials has been recognized globally, and that Korea is now capable of independently conducting an analysis of nuclear inspection samples, based on its well-established integrated system.


KAERI has already engaged in analytical activities associated with bulk analysis and FT-TIMS particle analysis, and is available, upon request, to perform a SIMS particle analysis of samples collected by IAEA inspectors. These efforts will help lay the technical foundation for Korea to contribute provocatively to securing policy data associated with trace-analysis of nuclear materials, and to monitor and verify the nuclear activities of neighboring countries. Furthermore, these technologies can be utilized for the verification of North Koreas denuclearization activities unfolding in the near future, raising hopes that Korea might play an important role in North Koreas denuclearization process.


Under support from the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC), headed by Chairperson Jungmin Kang, KAERI received approval to join the bulk analysis sector and FT-TIMS particle analysis sector of IAEAs NWAL in 2012 and 2015, respectively. Since 2015, KAERI has been conducting an analysis of nuclear inspection samples assigned by the IAEA.


In 2016, KAERI initiated procedures to join the SIMS particle analysis sector of IAEAs NWAL. Over the three occasions of analysis tests, KAERI has successfully accomplished required tasks (for example, collecting and analyzing micrometer-size uranium particles in a highly dusty environment), fully satisfying all technological requirements put forward by the IAEA with respect to accuracy, precision, and quality management.


Also, under support from the Ministry of Science and ICT, headed by Minister You Young Min, KAERI completed the construction of a Class-100 nuclear-inspection sample analysis facility in 2013 and has been operating it ever since, thereby satisfying the NWAL facility requirement. The facility is designed to prevent any contamination during a nuclear material trace-analysis.

Class 100 (ISO Class 5): refers to a degree of cleanliness and is defined as follows: fewer than one hundred particles larger than 0.3 microns are to be maintained in each cubic foot of air space. For reference, a typical home is expected to have a Class 100,000 degree of cleanliness, and a semiconductor manufacturing process is expected to have a Class 10-100 degree of cleanliness.


The president of KAERI, Jaejoo Ha mentioned that Now, we come to stand where we are able to make contributions as a nuclear technology powerhouse to global nonproliferation efforts, including North Koreas denuclearization, while fully satisfying global expectations. All this will also lead to improving our national nuclear transparency going forward.