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Gamma-ray spectrometry systems based on High-Purity Germanium (HPGe) have been the long-standing leader in terms of resolution since their introduction many years ago. The application of this technology to the spectroscopic assay of special nuclear material led to the development of several isotopic analysis tools, including the advanced software package FRAM, which was, and continues to be, developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Although FRAM can be applied over a wide range of energies, the significantly higher intensity of the x-ray region in the neighborhood of 100 keV makes analysis of this area of the spectrum advantageous, especially in the case of plutonium. However, even with HPGe, the multitude of gamma-ray and x-ray peaks that exist in the 100-keV region are sufficiently convoluted so as to preclude determination of plutonium isotopic composition without the introduction of some error. The novel technology of cryogenic microcalorimeter detectors, shown to have an order of magnitude better spectral resolution than HPGe, has recently opened new doors with respect to these difficulties. Now, for the first time, the powerful capabilities of FRAM have been paired with the unparalleled resolution of microcalorimetry in the analysis of plutonium spectra. Preliminary results of these analyses, as well as an outlook for future measurements, heretofore unobtainable with HPGe, will be presented.
Date of Publication: Aug. 2009