Critical need for plutonium and uranium isotopic standards with lower uncertainties
Certified reference materials (CRMs) traceable to national and international safeguards database are a critical prerequisite for ensuring that nuclear measurement systems are free of systematic biases. CRMs are used to validate measurement processes associated with nuclear analytical laboratories. Diverse areas related to nuclear safeguards are impacted by the quality of the CRM standards available to analytical laboratories. These include: nuclear forensics, radio-chronometry, national and international safeguards, stockpile stewardship, nuclear weapons infrastructure and nonproliferation, fuel fabrication, waste processing, radiation protection, and environmental monitoring. For the past three decades the nuclear community is confronted with the strange situation that improvements in measurement data quality resulting from the improved accuracy and precision achievable with modern multi-collector mass spectrometers could not be fully exploited due to large uncertainties associated with CRMs available from New Brunswick Laboratory (NBL) that are used for instrument calibration and measurement control. Similar conditions prevail for both plutonium and uranium isotopic standards and for impurity element standards in uranium matrices. Herein, the current status of U and Pu isotopic standards available from NBL is reviewed. Critical areas requiring improvement in the quality of the nuclear standards to enable the U. S. and international safeguards community to utilize the full potential of modern multi-collector mass spectrometer instruments are highlighted.