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By Paul Cage, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Corporate Communications
| Jan. 14, 2021
Image: This simulated image of the SoftWare for Optimization of Radiation Detectors (SWORD) illustrates a detected radiation dispersal device inside a vehicle crossing the San Ysidro, California Port of Entry’s radiation portal monitor. SWORD, developed at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, is an integrated software package that offers an interface to radiation transport codes, allowing users to design and optimize radiation detectors, which results in the faster development and evaluation of radiation detection equipment. (Photo by U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)
SoftWare for Optimization of Radiation Detectors (SWORD) is an integrated software package that offers an interface to radiation transport codes, allowing users to design and optimize radiation detectors, which results in the faster
“Our sponsors and end users are focused on preventing nuclear weapons and other radiological devices from being smuggled into the country or into areas where the Department of Defense operates,” Wade Duvall, Ph.D., an NRL research physicist said. “SWORD uses one of several standard radiation transport codes to simulate a scenario, from a medical isotope being transported to a legitimate background source.”
Program users, like the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, currently evaluate complex particle interactions by Monte Carlo techniques designed to track particle types over broad ranges of energies. The Monte Carlo uses a number of simulation libraries that have a variety of adjustable parameters; however, these parameters require significant expertise to configure appropriately for the scenario to be modeled.
“These difficulties motivated us to make a tool that could be used by a person without any nuclear physics expertise to quickly build complex scenarios and simulate them,” Duvall said. “Now, with fission, SWORD 7 allows the Navy and users to model scenarios involving active interrogation, space-based and ship-based nuclear reactors and shielding.”
The SWORD implementation was a threefold effort. First, the SWORD simulation engine was updated to accommodate a new physics library and increase performance. Then, a new fission physics library was integrated into SWORD.
“The physics of particle interactions is well understood, but solving the equations gets complicated quickly,” Duvall said. “Despite using industry standard radiation transport codes, SWORD struggled to simulate fission accurately.”
After the integrated library was validated to ensure it had been properly incorporated and that fission physics was accurately modeled, Duvall said they are now working on getting SWORD 7 ready for release.
“SWORD can now model nuclear reactors and other fission sources, as well as the next-generation of fission-based detectors,” Duvall said. “This will allow SWORD to model the latest and greatest technologies being developed by the Navy and the greater defense community.”
SWORD 7 is scheduled to roll out in mid-2021 through the Radiation Safety Information Computational Center at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory at https://www.ornl.gov/onramp/rsicc
About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
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