The Advanced Nuclear Technology Group (N-2) conducts research, development, training and operations in the application of passive and active nuclear measurement techniques, as well as radiography. Applications of primary interest to the group include weapons of mass destruction emergency response programs, intelligence support activities, and international treaty verification. N-2 also conducts nuclear criticality research supporting basic research in nuclear chain-reacting systems and contributing to arms control and treaty verification, waste assay, safeguards and accountability, and environmental restoration. A key component of the N-2 mission is to teach a wide variety of personnel how to safely handle, detect, characterize, and manage nuclear materials. N-2 staff members conduct classes in criticality safety, nuclear materials handling methods, and nuclear instrumentation.
N-2 is in the process of transitioning operations from the Los Alamos Critical Experiments Facility, located in New Mexico, to the Critical Experiments Facility at the Nevada Test Site. This unique facility, which will be fully operational in 2010, will contain the largest collection of nuclear critical mass assembly machines in the western hemisphere. These assemblies can be broadly categorized as benchmark critical assemblies, general-purpose assemblies, and fast-burst assemblies. The addition of solution-critical assemblies is planned for the future.
Another major responsibility is to support the nation's nuclear emergency response capability by training personnel, developing instrumentation, and providing technical expertise. N-2 is a key player in the Joint Technical Operations Team (JTOT). Deciphering the mysterious internal workings of a terrorist device falls to JTOT. Faced with an unknown design, JTOT members evaluate the device, without disturbing or destroying it, and determine how it was put together and what its capabilities might be. Los Alamos is the lead laboratory for providing the team with nuclear diagnostics–the sensors that detect the types of radiation associated with nuclear weapons and that identify the radiation "signatures" of particular weapon configurations. The "day jobs" of N-2 JTOT experts are in programs devoted to developing, testing, and evaluating such tools.
N-2 also has the capability to configure nuclear materials to resemble nuclear devices. These mock-ups can be used to develop and validate instruments and methods used in nuclear nonproliferation work. Experimenters measure nuclear warhead components, pits, and triggers in support of various initiatives such as the Trilateral Initiative and International Atomic Energy Agency verifications. The group's greatest resource is its expert staff with extensive hands-on professional experience in nuclear materials measurement instrumentation. Our staff's ability to communicate technical concepts to both peers and non-technical colleagues and to share expertise with students contributes to our success. N-2 has a strong working relationship with other national laboratories, the DOE, other US government agencies, private industry, and international organizations.