Associate Laboratory Director for National Security:
Dr. Anthony (Tony) Burris
Throughout its history, SRNL has strongly supported the national defense through its capabilities and experience in defense, homeland security, and nuclear material issues.
Since its earliest days, SRNL has developed technologies to enhance the safety and cost-effectiveness of the Savannah River Site’s work with tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen gas that is a vital component of the nation’s nuclear defense. SRNL continues its support of a robust nuclear weapons stockpile through deployment of improved technologies and testing of components to ensure stockpile safety and reliability.
The laboratory’s researchers are also recognized world leaders in technologies to separate, stabilize, package, transport, store, account for, and disposition spent fuel, plutonium and other nuclear materials. Earlier in its history, SRNL and SRS supported national defense through the production of plutonium as a feedstock in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Emphasis now is on the recovery, storage and safe disposition of nuclear materials to ensure they do not represent a proliferation or environmental risk and to support global threat reduction.
SRNL provides support for homeland security initiatives in fields that include emergency response, urban search and rescue, border protection and law enforcement support, utilizing several of the areas of expertise for which SRNL is known.
Historically, the laboratory’s experts have developed highly sensitive analytical equipment and techniques to measure the environmental impact of the Savannah River Site’s radiological operations. That same expertise goes into the development of technologies and techniques for detecting and identifying chemical, biological and radiological materials to address homeland security goals. SRNL’s expertise in robotics, surveillance systems and specialty equipment is being applied to a broad range of needs, from vision systems for use in search-and-rescue missions, to low-cost robots for the disabling of improvised explosive devices, to medical devices for first responder physicians.
Putting Science to Work for National Security
Savannah River Site Defense Programs Support
SRNL’s technology support for the Savannah River Site’s Defense Programs, which are responsible for all tritium operations in support of the nation’s defense, has allowed the site’s Tritium Facilities to ensure the highest levels of safety and human protection, and the lowest risks to the environment, while producing 100% on-schedule deliveries for over 40 years.
SRNL invented the Thermal Cycling Absorption Process (TCAP) for hydrogen isotope separation in 1980 for tne National Security Program. This process plays a crucial role in the production of tritium, the hydrogen isotope that provides fusion energy for our nation’s nuclear weapons. Now SRNL’s researchers have developed the next-generation TCAP called Compact Thermal Cycling. This new process greatly simplifies the overall system, increases production, and provides greater flexibility. The process was demonstrated in 2008. A plant configured design will be developed and be ready for implementation by 2010.
SRNL conducts an active program of applied research and development related to atmospheric technologies. Areas of emphasis include: (1) the transport and fate of contaminants released to the environment from industrial activity or malevolent act for applications in emergency response, nuclear nonproliferation, and carbon science; and (2) applied assessments of regional and local climate as related to the sustainability of energy generation and natural resources in response to possible future climate change.
In 2006, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and SRNL announced the opening of a new laboratory and office suite for the forensic examination of radiological material and associated evidence, located at SRNL. In 2010, the FBI and SRNL celebrated the opening of a six-fold expansion of the facility. These laboratory facilities provide the FBI with a flexible radiological containment laboratory where FBI experts can safely conduct forensic examinations on items of evidence associated with radiological material. The facilities represent a significant forensic partnership between the FBI and SRNL. The FBI and SRNL have a longstanding partnership to provide law enforcement with the ability to conduct investigations that involve radioactive materials. SRNL conducted several years of development to adapt FBI forensic protocols for application in radiological labs. SRNL also provides radiological crime scene training to FBI agents from around the country who are members of the FBI’s Hazardous Materials Response Teams and provides training for the FBI Laboratory’s Hazardous Evidence Analysis Team.
DHS Strategic Partner National Laboratory
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated SRNL as one of its Strategic Partner National Laboratories. The DHS Science and Technology Directorate established the network of Strategic Partner laboratories to enable the agency to make the best use of the expertise available at these laboratories as it pursues its mission of protecting the nation. SRNL has assisted DHS since the agency's earliest days, providing technologies, analytical capabilities, training and consultation. With the designation as a Strategic Partner, the agency has a mechanism for using SRNL's expertise in the Science & Technology Directorate's internal strategic planning, as it outlines science and technology activities that will enhance its ability to fulfill its mission.
Support for New York City 9/11 Search Efforts
On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice called the Savannah River National Laboratory (then called the Savannah River Technology Center) to ask what capabilities the laboratory could offer to assist the search efforts in New York City. The response was quick and positive. At noon on Sept. 13, less than 24 hours after the formal request for support, two trucks left the laboratory, carrying a team of SRNL personnel and a variety of remotely operated equipment. The team’s years of developing and deploying tools for accessing inhospitable areas of the Savannah River Site’s nuclear facilities was put to new use supporting the search and rescue efforts at Ground Zero. For the next month, four to six team members remained in New York , rotating personnel every week to 10 days.
Robots for dearming improvised explosive devices
SRNL developed a low-cost robotic apparatus able to disable or disarm improvised explosive devices. Two prototype robots have been deployed for military use in Iraq. The Mobile Platform for Explosives Dearming (MoPED) was developed under the direction and funding of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). The Combat Support branch of DTRA provides combat support to the military services. The MoPED was designed to DTRA specifications based upon feedback provided by Explosive Ordnance Disposal bomb technicians deployed to Iraq. The robotic device is powered by a military HUMVEE and can deploy several different disdearming tools provided by the military. Its job is to render explosive devices safe, while protecting our soldiers and Iraqi citizens. The on-board video cameras allow the operator to drive the robot up to the suspected Improvised Explosive Device and examine the device without placing personnel in range of the explosive charge. The operator console includes video monitoring, drive control and dearming device activation. The operator can visually examine the Improvised Explosive Device and target the vulnerable locations for aiming and firing the dearmer. Following disarming the operator may use the robot to inspect the Improvised Explosive Device to verify that it has been made safe before personnel walk up to the device.
Aerosol-To-Liquid Particle Extraction System
The Aerosol-to-Liquid Particle Extraction System (ALPES) was a 2003 winner of the R&D 100 Award, presented by R&D Magazine to the 100 most significant inventions of the year. This portable device collects airborne particles, (chemical agents, radioactive particles, microorganisms, residue from explosions or byproducts of manufacturing processes) and concentrates them into a liquid for analysis. ALPES has potential to be part of an anti-terrorism alert system.
The SRNL-developed BritePrintTM is a high-intensity light source for at-the-scene fingerprint detection. Unlike traditional light sources used in fingerprint detection, BritePrint is lightweight and easy to handle; it would typically be worn on a headset for hands-free operation. Its small design allows it to illuminate hard-to-reach places not readily reached by traditional light sources, and its low cost is expected to make it available for small law enforcement agencies. Used with traditional dust detection methods, BritePrintTM reveals otherwise invisible fingerprints, footprints, and other latent markings.
Papers by SRNL researchers on a variety of topics are available
through the DOE Information Bridge.