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The Half-Life of Cf-252

What Is the Half-Life of Cf-252?

Californium-252 Do atoms die? Rather than dying, certain atoms experience a radioactive decay process. Every atom save hydrogen contains neutrons, or electrically neutral subatomic particles. But what do neutrons do? Together with protons, neutrons make up an atom’s nucleus. However, some of these neutrons float freely, degrading radioactively into other particles within a short timeframe—though physicists disagree on the exact timing.

Who discovered the neutron? Theorized in the 1920s, it wasn’t until 1932 that Sir James Chadwick, a British physicist, gathered evidence from experimentation that provided more definitive proof of the existence of these particles. Then, in 1950, the radiation laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley discovered a synthetic radioactive element that became known as californium.

An isotope occurs when an element’s atoms all have the same amount of protons but a differing amount of neutrons. One of californium’s 20 isotopes, radioactive californium-252 (Cf-252), has proven helpful in various commercial, industrial and nuclear applications for its stability and efficient neutron-emitting capability. Cf-252 began as an isolated sample of plutonium-239 that was neutron-irradiated, and, while it is rare because it is not naturally occurring, particle accelerators and high-flux isotope reactors can utilize neutron bombardment to produce it.

Continue reading to learn more about neutrons and Cf-252, half-life, and the special considerations required for handling or transporting radioactive isotopes.

Lifetime of a Neutron

There’s no definitive answer as yet on the exact time period of a neutron’s lifetime. Physicists have used various laboratory approaches for years to determine it but they continue to yield differing results. In one of their attempts, the average lifetime came to 14 minutes and 39 seconds. In another test, however, the neutron life span came in at 14 minutes and 47 seconds

Despite the discrepancies, it is important for researchers to narrow down the life of a neutron. This can help them understand how the universe came into being after the Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago. They particularly would like to know the volume of light elements such as hydrogen and helium that formed within the next few minutes after the event. Determining neutron lifetime would also assist scientists in the study of physics and determining other subatomic particle measurements.

What Is a Half-Life?

Half-life is the time period needed for half of a radioactive sample’s atomic nuclei to degrade. It will spontaneously become a different nuclear species, giving off energy and particles as this occurs. The term can also refer to the time that it takes for there to be a 50% reduction of a radioactive material’s per-second disintegrations.

Even though a free neutron’s average half-life is 10.2 minutes, most are stable within nuclei with specific energy levels. For neutron decay to occur, protons need an available lower energy state than the initial energy state of the neutrons. This is referred to as bound neutron decay.

Half-Life of Californium-252

Scientists determined the half-life of californium-252 by examining the ratio of activity in a manganese-sulfate bath via the isotope’s spontaneous fission neutron source with the photo-neutron source of the National Bureau of Standards. This method measures the rate change in emissions over 1.77 half-lives for the Cf-252 source. Researchers determined that, for Cf-252, the half-life is 2.647 years.

Work With Frontier Technology for Your Nuclear Needs

Nuclear power usage is up worldwide, and so its generation is important in modern operations for safe and efficient power supply. Nuclear energy has a low carbon footprint with no emissions, and it’s reliable yet economical. With the short half-life of Cf-252, it stands as a suitable initiator of the nuclear fission process in reactors.

However, as a highly radioactive isotope, Cf-252 requires specialized neutron-designated shipping containers for transport. At Frontier Technology Corporation, we offer high-quality, single- or double-encapsulated nuclear capsules that meet USDOT IAEA Special Form certification requirements. Since 1984, FTC has built a reputation as a trusted neutron-emitting source supplier and manufacturer of radioactive shipping containers for diverse industries across the globe.

We design and customize our capsules to meet customer specifications, and our expert welders utilize TIG and circumferential seal welding for tolerances of ±10%. Our company is licensed by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), and each of our products and services adheres to strict industry regulations from organizations including:

  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) 
  • ASTM 
  • ANSI

We also carry out rigorous testing to ensure safety, reliability, and a high level of integrity in our products and services. For more information about our capabilities, cost-effective neutron sources, and Type A customized radioactive shipping container solutions, contact us today.

Benefits of Nuclear Energy

What Is Nuclear Energy?

Nuclear energyNuclear Energy is a way to create electricity using the energy inside the nucleus of an atom. The core of an atom contains a significant amount of energy and the process of nuclear fission splits these atoms to release the energy. The energy produced from nuclear sources has a wide range of uses. It acts as a clean energy source that benefits the environment and is also useful in diverse applications spanning many industries, from agriculture to medicine, and more.

Advantages of Nuclear Energy

There are numerous advantages to nuclear energy that aren’t possible through other energy sources. Some of the key advantages include:

  • Protecting national security: Nuclear energy is a significant fuel source for the U.S. Navy and power generation facilities, supporting a resilient electrical grid in the U.S. 
  • Fighting climate change: Delivers round-the-clock carbon-free electricity. 
  • Ensuring U.S. leadership in technology: Nuclear energy is the most reliable source of energy and it is being adopted globally. The U.S., as a pioneer of nuclear energy technology, can respond to this global demand. 
  • Generating jobs: Hundreds of thousands of jobs are created by the nuclear energy industry, which supports state and local economies in tax revenue. 
  • Protecting air quality: Nuclear energy does not contribute to air pollution, protecting our environment and our health. 
  • Boosting international development: Adopting nuclear energy allows nations to solve energy problems sustainably and reliably. 
  • Powering electric vehicles: Electric vehicles powered by nuclear energy make a significant contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions. 
  • Reusability: Unlike fossil fuels, nuclear fuel can be reused after regeneration. 
  • Reducing greenhouse gases: Nuclear energy can be a significant part of the solution for global warming. Each year, nuclear power plants around the world prevent the emission of millions of tons of CO2
  • Developing the economy: Constructing new power plants enables further economic growth and creates many new jobs, even in sectors other than nuclear energy itself. 

Industries Benefiting From Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy provides diverse advantages for many industries. In addition to its environmental benefits through the reduction of greenhouse gasses and protection of air quality, nuclear technology also benefits everything from medicine and transportation to agriculture and consumer products. 

Industries that benefit from nuclear power advantages include:

  • Agriculture: Nuclear isotopes can be used to label fertilizers, providing a way to measure how much fertilizer a plant has utilized. It can also be used to create new plant varieties with specific desirable traits and help improve food production sustainability. 
  • Consumer products: Many consumer goods rely on small amounts of radioactive materials, such as smoke detectors, clocks, non-stick materials, and more. 
  • Food: Food irradiation using gamma rays kills bacteria and increases shelf life. It also controls pests and reduces the required quarantine period for food items shipped internationally. 
  • Industrial: Industrial manufacturers use radioisotopes to detect leaks in process equipment as well as to monitor wear and corrosion. 
  • Medicine: Nuclear medicine is used to treat cancers, act as a diagnostic technique, and perform imaging of soft tissues in a way that X-ray techniques are unable to do. The medical industry also relies on nuclear technology to sterilize medical supplies, such as syringes, clothing, gloves, and other components that are too sensitive for heat-based sterilization. 
  • Transportation: Nuclear energy powers ships that need to be at sea for long periods of time without access to fuel sources. Vessels such as submarines, icebreakers, and aircraft carriers all rely on nuclear energy as a fuel source. Additionally, it is crucial for space missions where other energy sources are unable to supply enough electricity. In the future, it could be used to create hydrogen to power cars. 

Revolutionize Your Industry with Nuclear Energy

Many highly diverse industries can reap the benefits of nuclear energy. From improving agricultural techniques to producing valuable consumer products, nuclear power is a highly desirable solution that provides reliability while protecting the environment. If you have questions about how nuclear energy sources like Californium-252 can work for your application, contact us at Frontier Technology Corporation today, or get started on a solution by requesting a quote

 

The History of Californium-252

Californium-252Californium-252 is a radioactive chemical element of the actinide series of the periodic table, atomic number 98. It was first synthesized in 1950 in the University of California Radiation Lab in Berkeley, by bombarding a microgram of curium-242 with alpha particles (helium-4 ions) in a 60-inch cyclotron.

Because curium is highly radioactive, researchers took about three years to collect the few milligrams required for the experiment. In 1954, the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho successfully produced weighable amounts of Californium using a high flux isotope reactor.

The isotope Cf-252 is a powerful neutron emitter and gives off neutrons when it breaks apart. It has applications in metal detectors, military applications, and water and oil detectors. Perhaps one of its most important uses is detecting metal stress and fatigue in airplanes.

Californium-252 Solutions

Frontier Technology develops Californium-252 to help solve different problems in the following industries.

Military and Defense

Cf-252 is used in portable isotopic neutron spectroscopy (PINS) systems, technology that analyzes the hazard level of sample compositions. PINS uses neutron sources to detect the presence of chemical agents or explosives without having to open containers or set off the compound. This ensures the team’s safety.

PINS systems are highly portable, making them ideal for use in the field. Plus, they provide users with information on the spot, instead of having to transfer it to a lab first.

Oil, Gas, and Shale

In downhole or borehole logging equipment, Cf-252 can offer oil, gas, and shale industry experts with critical details about the surrounding rock’s structural integrity, composition, porosity, liquid presence, fluid properties, and borehole dimensions. With this information, drilling operators can better understand the area, allowing them to adjust their drilling operations to match geological conditions.

Nuclear 

Cf-252 is especially suited for initializing nuclear fission reactions and informing workers of the presence of explosives. Fresh nuclear fuel is often not enough to begin a fission reaction. Cf-252 ensures there are enough neutrons in the core to initiate chain reactions with fuel rods and create a smooth and safe start for the reactor. 

Development of Californium-252

Californium doesn’t exist naturally and must be manufactured through nuclear processes. Currently, the Oak Ridge National Lab uses its high flux isotope reactor to produce an average of 25 milligrams per year. Because it is produced from the radioactive element curium-242, Cf-252 must be carefully produced, packaged, and shipped.

Californium-252 can emit hazardous radiation if not well-sealed. Thus, it is essential to use custom neutron shielding, Type-A radioactive containers to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the creation, transportation, delivery, and storage of Cf-252.

Californium-252 from Frontier Technology Corporation

The radioactive properties of Cf-252 make it suitable for a range of applications, including Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis (PGNAA), Portable Isotopic Neutron Spectroscopy (PINS), reactor start-up rods, scanners, and more. Cf-252 is an essential component in nuclear reactors, well logging, material scanners, and even cancer treatments.

At Frontier Technology Corporation, we have been at the forefront of Cf-252 production and design since 1984. Contact us today for more details about Californium-252, prices, or our capabilities.

The Importance of Nuclear Power in 2021

While fossil fuels still provide the bulk of global energy, nuclear power is rapidly becoming the clean power solution countries need to meet increasing electricity demands while reducing emissions. As of 2021, more than 400 nuclear reactors are operating worldwide, providing approximately 10% of the world’s electricity. In the US alone, almost 1/5 of municipal electricity is produced by nuclear reactors. 

During 2020 and 2021, nuclear power plants proved their ability to provide clean energy in the face of unprecedented labor shortages and fluctuating demand. The resiliency of nuclear power, coupled with its extremely low carbon footprint makes it one of the most sustainable solutions for clean energy production as the world transitions from fossil fuel energy production.

Nuclear PowerWhat Is Nuclear Power?

Nuclear power harnesses electricity from nuclear reactions caused by nuclear fission, fusion, or decay. Most nuclear power plants use nuclear fission to generate power from highly reactive elements such as uranium and plutonium. 

How Nuclear Power Works

In nuclear science, fission is the process by which a nuclear source, such as uranium or plutonium, bombards nuclear fuel with neutrons. The bombardment causes the atoms in the fuel source to break down, or split, releasing more neutrons that collide with other atoms. The resultant chain reaction creates a massive amount of energy that heats water in the nuclear reactor. Spinning turbines convert the energy in the superheated water into kinetic energy which passes from the turbines to generators. The generators convert the rotary motion from the turbines into usable electricity for the grid.

Principles of Nuclear Power

Atoms are composed of electrons, protons, and neutrons, all held together by an extremely powerful force. Nuclear fuel elements like uranium and plutonium have heavier atoms with more subatomic particles that share weaker bonds. When fuel atoms are bombarded with neutrons, the bonds between the particles weaken and break, releasing that energy. Control rods made from absorbent elements such as silver and boron are used to absorb neutrons and control the chain reaction. 

Uranium is one of the most abundant elements in the world, and as such, it has the capability to produce energy for generations. A single uranium pellet produces as much energy as 3 oil barrels with significantly less environmental impact. The abundance of nuclear energy sources make it a sustainable and efficient power generation option.

Developments in Nuclear Power

To provide sustainable energy, nuclear power must be able to scale to meet increasing demand, while ensuring cost-efficient operations. Advances in nuclear technology have increased the sustainability and efficiency of nuclear power plants. The nuclear power industry showed exceptional resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nuclear technology continues to evolve to meet unexpected challenges. Some of the most notable developments in 2020 and 2021 include the development of Natrium and Xe-100 nuclear reactor designs, as well as the establishment of small modular reactors (SMRs). 

To facilitate the development of more nuclear infrastructure, the US government has also introduced two legislative initiatives, the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act and the Fiscal Year 2022 budget which earmarks $1.85 billion for nuclear development. The bipartisan nature of these initiatives shows that, despite political differences, everyone recognizes the value of nuclear power generation in a changing world. 

Benefits of Nuclear Power Today

Nuclear power offers many unique benefits over more traditional fossil fuel power generation methods. The primary advantages of transitioning to nuclear power include: 

  • Economic Support: Nuclear energy creates jobs for skilled workers with experience in the fossil fuel industry. Nuclear industry jobs pay more than coal and renewable energy sectors, and the industry provides approximately 500,000 jobs annually in the US alone. Each plant can employ hundreds of workers for the entire life of the plant and contributes billions of dollars in tax revenue on the local, state, and federal levels. 
  • Clean Energy: Nuclear power plants are the largest providers of emissions-free power in the US. Currently established nuclear reactors provide 800 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, removing 470 million metric tons of potential carbon from our electricity generation cycle. 
  • Dependable Energy: Nuclear power facilities can operate at full power consistently for up to two years. They are designed to require low maintenance and infrequent refueling, which makes them an exceptionally reliable power source. 
  • Fosters International Cooperation: By incorporating civilian nuclear power into its energy grid, the US encourages countries around the world to establish peaceful nuclear power generation. 

Cutting-Edge Nuclear Sources From Frontier Technology

After proving its resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, nuclear energy is poised to become the world’s leading source of emissions-free energy production. Advances in nuclear technology provide increasingly efficient, safe, and dependable solutions which allow countries to reduce emissions while meeting increasing demand. 

At Frontier Technology, we offer a variety of nuclear power sources to facilitate the development and operation of clean nuclear energy, for a more sustainable future. Visit our website to learn more about our californium-252 solutions or contact us today!

Spent Nuclear Fuel: What You Need to Know

Frontier Technology Corporation (FTC) is a leading supplier of californium-252 (Cf-252), a powerful neutron source often used as fuel for nuclear reactors. Nuclear fuel is capable of producing and sustaining heat energy through nuclear fission. Since nuclear fuel has a finite amount of energy generation ability and remains hazardous even after it’s used, it is important for nuclear facilities to have a safe and reliable disposal option. In this blog, we will address the characteristics of spent nuclear fuel and how it can be safely managed and disposed of.

What is Spent Nuclear Fuel?

Spent nuclear fuel is nuclear material that has been irradiated for fission reactions until it can no longer generate sufficient heat to provide nuclear power. With more than 96 operating nuclear reactors in power plants across the U.S., approximately 2,000 metric tons of nuclear waste is generated annually. Although this may seem like a high number, the U.S. has only generated approximately 83,000 metric tons of radioactive waste since the establishment of nuclear power plants in 1958. When you consider the amount of power generated by nuclear power plants in that time, the amount of waste is quite small, particularly when compared with the amount of waste produced by traditional fossil fuel power plants.

Transportation of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants. Radioactive waste.

What Happens to Spent Nuclear Fuel?

Spent nuclear fuel is shipped to one of 76 nuclear storage facilities located across 34 U.S. states. Shipping casks for nuclear fuel are specifically engineered to withstand a variety of accidents, including water immersion, fire, impact, and punctures. Upon arrival at the storage facility, the used fuel is kept in secure steel and wep filled containers, eliminating the risk of leakage or contamination throughout the shipping and storage process. In fact, thousands of shipments of depleted nuclear fuel have been transported safely across the U.S. for more than 5 decades without any harm to the environment or the public.  

Although nuclear waste in the U.S. is typically stored in these secure facilities, several countries, including France, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland, recycle used nuclear fuel into new power sources. Since more than 90% of the potential energy of nuclear fuel still remains when it is discarded after 5 years of use in a reactor, recycling the material is a logical and efficient solution. 

In addition to established recycling methods using uranium mixed oxide, a variety of new reactor designs are in the works that could help U.S. facilities make better use of used nuclear fuel.

New research has also shown that californium-252 (Cf-252) may become an integral part of radioactive fuel recycling. Its ability to interact with and start a chain reaction separating different elements coupled with its resistance to damage from radiation may make it a viable option for future nuclear recycling operations.

Depleted Neutron Source Return Program at Frontier Technology Corporation

In spite of the dangers presented by the radioactive nature of nuclear waste, there are a number of established methods for the transport, storage, and recycling of used nuclear materials, which can include Cf-252 neutron sources. Often used as a means of starting chain reactions in nuclear power plants, Cf-252 is highly radioactive and must be safely disposed of once it has been depleted. 

At FTC, we understand the importance of safe handling and disposal of neutron sources, particularly Cf-252. As one of the world’s only suppliers of Cf-252, we consider it our responsibility to ensure that our customers have an accessible means of safely disposing of their depleted neutron sources. To make it as easy as possible, we have developed a fee-free disposal program that allows customers to return their depleted sources to FTC in a manner that is compliant with stringent regulatory guidelines. It is our goal to ensure that our customers can safely and easily dispose of their depleted neutron sources at any time, without laborious procedures or prohibitive fees. 

To learn more about californium-252, our return program, or our portfolio of other services and capabilities, reach out to us today. 

The Neutron Shielding Power of Water-Extended Polyester (WEP) Resin

At Frontier Technology Corporation (FTC), one of our core specialties is neutron shielding. We offer cutting-edge protective shipping containers for radioactive materials and other essential technologies for handling hazardous neutron sources such as californium-252 (Cf-252). 

Water Extended Polyester (WEP) resin encases materials and creates a strong, effective barrier around the material to protect anyone nearby and the surrounding environment from the hazards of neutron source exposure. Since this resin is capable of successfully enclosing neutrons, it performs well as a shield when transporting Cf-252. In this blog, we will talk a bit more about WEP resin, including its key features and advantages.

What Is Water Extended Polyester (WEP) Resin Material?

WEP beads are a solid polyester resin material and are emulsified with water to enhance their physical properties. After the emulsion process, fillers are added to reduce shrinkage and adjust appearance before a catalyst is used to cure the material.

Extending the resin with water absorbs heat, making it easier to cast parts without exotherm issues while keeping productions costs low. Since the resin mixture has low viscosity, it can properly form to the exact shape of complex and intricate designs with minimal risk of error. It also cures quickly, allowing for quick mold turnover. 

What Are the Advantages of Water Extended Polyester Resin Material?

Choosing the right material for every part of neutron source containment equipment is crucial. WEP resin boasts excellent protective performance when used as shielding for neutron sources, as well as for personnel safety equipment, shielding walls, and pass-through ports. Along with excellent performance as a neutron-containing material, it offers these key advantages:

Affordability

Because WEP resin is mixed with a substantial amount of water to achieve its beneficial properties, this results in a lower cost relative to other materials. WEP resin’s ability to cure quickly and completely fill complex molds also cuts costs by reducing production times and eliminating the risk of incomplete or poorly made finished products.

Track-Free Curing 

Resin-based products cure in the air without needing any heat or specialized curing processes, resulting in track-free cure.

Beneficial Qualities

WEP resin has a variety of desirable qualities, including:

  • Resistance to wear and weathering
  • Temperature resistance in relatively low-heat environments of up to 176°F (80°C).
  • Low shrinkage, which can be augmented with the presence of proper fillers
  • Resistance to water and other chemicals

Water Extended Polyester (WEP) Resin at Frontier Technology Corporation

At FTC, our team excels at creating the radioactive protection that industries need to ensure safe handling and disposal of these materials. Our shielding solutions are trusted throughout the mining, nuclear, and military industries, among many more. 

To learn more about our WEP material, neutron shielding, or to get started on your shielding solution, click here for our main neutron shielding resource or contact us today.

3 Reasons Why Nuclear Power is a Clean Energy Source

Public awareness of clean and sustainable sources of energy has grown significantly, particularly in recent years, as focus sharpens on lessening the impacts of climate change. However, while solar, wind, and hydroelectric power are commonly discussed, nuclear power is often left out of the conversation. 

Nuclear power plants are the largest source of emission-free energy in the United States and the second-largest source of emission-free energy in the world. So why is nuclear power generally excluded from the clean energy conversation? One of the main reasons may be misunderstandings about nuclear power—namely that it is not a clean energy source. Below, we highlight three facts that help to answer the question: is nuclear power a clean energy source?

1. Nuclear Power Maintains Air Quality

Unlike other energy sources (e.g., coal, oil, and natural gas), nuclear energy is a zero-emission energy source. It generates power through fission rather than combustion. The process involves the splitting of uranium atoms, which generates and releases heat. The heat generated and released is used to produce steam for turbines, which produce electricity without creating and emitting potentially harmful airborne byproducts (e.g., nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, mercury, and dust). nuclear plants with a blue sky background

These harmful byproducts, produced in high quantities by power generation operations that utilize coal, oil, and natural gas, can negatively affect human health and the environment. For example: 

  • Nitrogen oxide can lead to smog.
  • Sulfur dioxide can lead to acid rain.
  • Carbon dioxide can contribute to climate change. 
  • Mercury can impact the nervous system.
  • Dust and other particulates can cause respiratory illnesses.  

Switching from conventional power generation systems to nuclear power generation systems can significantly reduce the amounts of these compounds present in the air, resulting in a cleaner and healthier world. 

2. Nuclear Power Has a Smaller Land Footprint

While other carbon-free power options are available (e.g., solar power and wind power), they generally require more land than nuclear power. Compared to any other clean energy sources, nuclear energy produces more electricity on less land space. For example, a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant with a single commercial reactor requires a single square mile to operate. In comparison, a solar power plant would require 75 square miles and 3,000,000 solar panels to produce the same amount of electricity, while a wind power plant would require 360 square miles and 430 wind turbines to produce the same amount of electricity. 

3. Nuclear Power Generates Minimal Waste

The fuel used in nuclear power generation operations is extremely dense. Compared to the fuels used in traditional power generation operations, it is approximately 1,000,000 times denser, which allows it to take up a smaller amount of space before and after use. For reference, the amount of nuclear fuel waste generated in the United States over the past 60 years could be contained within an area the length and width of a football field with a depth of less than 10 yards. Group of stacked yellow drums with radioactive waste

The nuclear power industry takes full responsibility for all of the waste it produces—both high-level and low-level nuclear energy waste. High-level waste typically refers to used fuel, while low-level fuel typically refers to items exposed to radioactive materials (e.g., gloves and tools). Currently, the standard method for managing both types of nuclear waste is containing and storing the materials in isolated locations until their radioactivity levels have diminished to the point where they can be reintroduced into the environment without causing harm. For some low-level waste, this period is relatively short; it is stored until it is no longer radioactive and then disposed of along with normal trash. However, other low-level waste and high-level waste are slated for essentially permanent storage in designated disposal sites. 

Another waste management option is reprocessing and recycling the materials for use in future operations. While the United States currently does not practice this method, advancements in reactor technology could allow nuclear power plants to utilize used fuel, which, if successful, could significantly reduce the amount of used fuel storage space required. 

Partner with the Experts at FTC for Your Nuclear Power Needs

Nuclear power is a clean and sustainable source of energy, and organizations across the globe are now incorporating it at higher rates. As a premier provider of californium-252 (Cf-252) neutron sources, Frontier Technology Corporation (FTC) is well-versed in the benefits nuclear power has to offer to the world. 

At FTC, our neutron sources find use in a variety of industries and applications. The cores of our business are providing nuclear reactor start-up rods, Cf-252 neutron sources, and shipping containers to customers in a wide variety of industries. To learn more about our products and how we serve the nuclear power industry, reach out to us or request a quote today.

How Is Californium-252 Used in Homeland Security?

Californium-252 (Cf-252) is a lab-created, radioactive chemical isotope synthesized by bombarding curium with alpha particles. This synthetic material is a pure metal and is used for a range of applications from the creation of new elements to treating certain cancers, but one of its most prominent uses is in homeland security. Cf-252 plays a critical role in material scanning, identification, and analysis operations, especially when implemented in portable isotopic neutron spectroscopy (PINS) systems.

An Overview of Californium-252

Californium-252 is beneficial for use in homeland security due to its many advantageous properties, including:Californium

  • Strong neutron emission
  • Non-destructive material penetration
  • Exceptional data analysis capabilities
  • Highly portable – on-site analysis

Due to Cf-252’s strong neutron emission and data analysis capabilities, it is commonly used in the production of neutron source-powered devices that gather information.

Find more information about Cf-252 and its various properties at the following resources:

How is Californium-252 Used in Homeland Security?

Portable isotopic neutron spectroscopy (PINS) is a system used to identify hazardous materials such as explosives, chemicals, and nerve and blister agents often contained in improved electronic devices (IEDs) or other chemical warfare apparatuses, including projectiles, rockets, or bombs. PINS is used extensively by the National Guard, Homeland Security, United States Armed Forces, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The system operates by using a Cf-252 neutron source to deeply penetrate a suspicious container or material with neutrons. As these neutrons bombard the object, the elemental composition within emits a unique gamma-ray signature. This signature gives insight into the contents of the object; most advantageously, this is done in a non-destructive way that does not put nearby personnel at risk. Appropriate measures can then be taken to destroy or disarm the device safely while limiting personnel exposure to hazardous materials or explosives. 

In addition to use in PINS systems, Cf-252 can be incorporated in handheld neutron detection devices used by emergency responders, as well as stand-alone neutron detection instruments placed in nuclear plants, medical facilities, and many other critical applications.

Homeland Security Solutions at Frontier Technology Corporation

Californium-252’s exceptional neutron emitting properties make it invaluable for homeland security applications that require a safe, highly analytical method of evaluating an environment or object. Their tiny size and high yield per unit mass make it possible for Cf-252 neutron sources to be constructed in a variety of configurations designed to address the shape, size, and other requirements of nearly any application. 

At Frontier Technology Corporation, we are world leaders in Cf-252 neutron source design and manufacturing and have supplied Cf-252 neutron sources to military and defense customers for over two decades. We offer single- and double-encapsulated nuclear containers with the ability to construct handling rods, pigtails, cables, lanyards, and more to integrate with PINS systems. We also offer custom nuclear product research and design services. With a commitment to continually improving our performance and quality, we ensure that all our products adhere to industry standards set by ODH, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ISO 2919, ASTM, and ANSI. 

To learn more about how californium-252 neutron sources are used in homeland security, or for more information about our services or capabilities, reach out to us today.

Get to Know Us: About Frontier Technology Corporation

Frontier Technology Corporation (FTC) is one of the few suppliers of californium-252 neutron sources in the world. Our decades of experience and commitment to excellence in manufacturing and logistics have led us to become radioactive material industry world leaders. In this blog, we’ll discuss our company in more detail and what sets us apart from other neutron source suppliers.

Who We Are & What We Do

Frontier Technology Corporation is the world leader in californium-252 neutron source design, manufacturing, and shipment. We provide high-integrity, cost-effective neutron sources to over 200 countries worldwide, excluding embargoed countries. Our 40 years of industry experience have enabled us to become the foremost expert in the logistics and shipping of radioactive materials. All of our products are shipped in compliance with Nuclear Regulatory Commission standards and all of our shipping containers are TYPE-A certified for radioactive material.

The primary products that we offer are:

  • Californium-252: FTC custom-designs and manufactures californium-252 sources for a wide variety of applications. Our sources, in wire form, are double-encapsulated and composed of inner and outer capsule chambers with a maximum content level of 5 mg. 
  • Type-A Shipping Containers: Our custom-designed and fabricated Type-A packages safely transport significant quantities of radioactive materials between facilities to end-user sites. We produce shipping packages in several sizes with various shielding capacities and configurations for rental or purchase. 
  • Nuclear Reactor Rod Assemblies: We manufacture complete rod assemblies according to our customer’s specifications, including Californium-252 sources, Antimony-Beryllium pellets, NDT, and all parts of the rod assembly. All of our rods exceed the nuclear industry’s highest level of safety standards.

In addition to these solutions, we also produce custom neutron radiation shielding walls, which provide highly effective protection from harmful neutron radiation, as well as Antimony-Beryllium (Sb-Be) pellets. These pellets are produced according to the customer’s specifications for use in nuclear start-up rod assemblies in nuclear plant applications. 

What Makes Us Different

As industry leaders, there are several significant factors that set FTC apart from other neutron source suppliers. First, our fee-free disposal program provides our customers with a simple method of disposing depleted neutron sources. By taking responsibility for these neutron sources, we are contributing positively to our industry while giving our customers one less thing to worry about. 

Another area that sets us apart is our proprietary water-extended polyester (WEP) neutron shielding material. WEP is a resin that has a high water content, is fire-resistant, and highly effective in custom-manufactured shielding walls. WEP has a mechanical strength between that of concrete and wood. Our shielding walls meet a wide range of industry standards. 

Finally, our in-house designed and fabricated Type-A shipping containers store and transport Special Form non-fissile sources safely, in packaging that withstands fires, and other threats such as compression, falls, and water. These containers are available for both purchase and rental and come in a variety of sizes. All of our containers adhere to international shipping regulations. 

Choose Neutron Sources at Frontier Technology Corporation

Frontier Technology Corporation is a trusted supplier of californium-252 neutron sources and radioactive shipping containers. As the most experienced leader in our industry, we make safety our top priority and have created innovative solutions that allow us to serve a variety of applications. We tailor both californium-252 sources and their packaging to meet our customer’s requirements. To learn more about Frontier Technology Corporation, or our services and capabilities, reach out to us today.

All About Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) Methods and Neutron Radiography

Frontier Technology Corporation (FTC) is a premier manufacturer of californium-252 (Cf-252), an element capable of releasing 170 million neutrons per minute. This makes Cf-252 well-suited for use in neutron-based scanning and analysis processes, such as neutron radiography. 

Neutron radiography (NR) is a non-destructive testing (NDT) method, meaning it is used to safely analyze the properties and/or structures of a material without causing damage to the sample. The following article provides an overview of non-destructive testing methods, including discussing the unique aspects of neutron radiography and how Cf-252 is integrated with these types of testing methods.

An Overview of Non-Destructive Testing (NDT)

As indicated above, the term “non-destructive testing”—also described as non-destructive examination (NDE) and non-destructive inspection (NDI)—refers to analysis processes that do not permanently alter the tested material. NDT methods are used for a variety of purposes, including evaluating a material’s composition and probing a component, assembly, or system for defects and damage. Their key advantage: minimized risks of degrading or destroying sensitive or critical materials. In the next section, we will provide specific usage examples of NDTs within the oil & gas and military & defense industries.

What Is Neutron Radiography?

Aerospace Turbine Blade

(Aerospace Turbine Blade)

Neutron radiography is an imaging method that relies on low-energy neutrons to analyze samples. The testing equipment emits a beam of neutrons that penetrates the sample and interacts with the nuclei of its atoms. Compared to x-rays and gamma rays, neutron radiation interacts more strongly with lighter elements (e.g., hydrogen) rather than denser elements. As a result, it is ideal for analyzing samples with thicker outer layers. For example, it can be used to inspect critical aerospace components such as energy fuses and turbine blades. Other applications include detecting moisture in organic samples and inspecting encapsulated archaeological samples. 

This process allows industry professionals to obtain a better understanding of hard-to-image samples and subjects. However, there is one key drawback to using neutron radiography: it requires a strong and steady neutron-emitting source to power the imaging device. 

As a powerful neutron emitting source, californium-252 is an effective solution to this problem. It is often used for portable isotopic neutron spectroscopy (PINS) and prompt gamma neutron activation analysis (PGNAA), both of which are neutron-based, non-destructive testing methods. PINS is an analysis process used by military personnel, homeland security, and customs and border protection agents to detect explosives, hazardous chemicals, and dangerous compounds within a suspected container. PGNAA is an analysis employed by professionals in the coal and cement, mining, and oil and gas industries to determine the elemental composition of the material within the targeted extraction site. 

In summary, some of the industries that most commonly employ non-destructive testing methods include:

  • Aerospace
  • Energy
  • Military 
  • Oil and gas
  • Railroad

Californium-252 Neutron Sources for Neutron Radiography Operations

As a non-destructive testing method, neutron radiography is a great choice for analyzing a wide range of sensitive samples and subjects. Californium-252 provides the neutron-emitting capabilities needed to power these analysis processes. If you’re seeking the right Cf-252 source supplier, we at FTC are here to help. 

At Frontier Technology Corporation, we’ve supplied top tier neutron sources for over 30 years. Our custom californium-252 sources are fabricated to accommodate the needs of various industries and industrial applications. We also provide Type A certified shipping containers for neutron sources (note that we do not provide these containers for gamma-ray sources) and ship to over 200 countries. 

For additional information about californium-252, check out the following resources:

To learn more about non-destructive testing methods such as neutron radiography or our products and services, reach out to us today.