A Sandia researcher says he has developed a simulation program designed to track the illicit trade in radiological material and predict who is building the next nuclear weapon and where they are doing it.
‘By using a cluster analysis algorithm coded into a program, I evaluated those traffic patterns and routes in which thefts, seizures, and destinations of materials were reported,’ said Sandia researcher David York. ’Data from these examinations were enough to allow me to retrospectively depict the A. Q. Kahn network before it was uncovered.’
Kahn is a Pakistani scientist linked to the illicit proliferation of nuclear technical knowledge. Cluster analyses link data of common place, time, or material. Testing a computer simulation on a known past event is one accepted means of establishing the program’s validity.
In the Kahn analysis,
In the study,
‘One begins by conducting cluster analyses on the GIS platform for material or activity similar to the incident in question. This gives the analyst an idea of corridors used by potential smugglers. It also indicates where the material might have come from and where it is,’ said
For the tool to be effective, ‘Enough information must be collected under a cooperative international framework,’
Nation-states that reuse nuclear fuel through reprocessing can create and ship dangerous materials that previously were confined to the more industrialised world.
‘We’re trying to develop a market niche for this kind of tracking program,’ said Sandia manager Gary Rochau, ‘and I think we’re ahead of everyone’s headlights.’