Calendar Details

For more information about item submission and attendance, see About the Technical Calendar.

Thursday, October 11

The End of 3He As We Know It for
National Security Applications

Richard Kouzes, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory , Richland, Washington
Physics Division Seminar
11:00 AM — 12:00 PM, Building 6008, Conference Room
Contact: Alfredo Galindo-Uribarri (, 865.574.6124


Within the last decade, the amount of available 3He has become limited, while the demand has significantly increased, especially for science and national security applications. The largest demand for 3He is in gas proportional counters for neutron detection. No other currently available detection technology offers the stability, sensitivity, and gamma/neutron discrimination of 3He neutron tubes. Such neutron detectors are used in many applications including neutron scattering research, international and homeland security, defense applications, and well logging. The limited supply has curtailed use of 3He; therefore, alternative neutron detection technologies must be implemented. The production of 3He from tritium decay has declined as the nuclear weapons stockpile has been reduced, resulting in a lowered need for tritium to maintain the stockpile. The worldwide, steady state production of 3Hee is about 10-20 kliter/y, while the demand is much higher. This has driven the search for alternate neutron detection technologies to replace the use of 3He. One of the two large uses for 3He has been in radiation portal monitors deployed for homeland security both domestically and internationally. This use is no longer permitted by U.S. government policy. Thus, an alternative had to be found and deployed over a short period of time. The nuclear physics community successfully met this challenge. This talk will provide an overview of the 3He supply problem and the application of neutron detectors to national security.