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Environmental Sample Laboratory

Producer: Louise Potterton, Video Editor: Petr Pavlicek

DATELINE: November 2015, Seibersdorf, Austria

IAEA inspectors return to the Agency’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria with samples containing dust particles that they have collected at nuclear facilities. These samples, in the form of cotton swipes, allow the analysis of traces of nuclear materials that can reveal information about the current and past activities at a nuclear facility and verify whether a state is abiding by its legal commitment not to divert nuclear material from peaceful activities or engage in non-declared nuclear activities.

The analysis is carried out at the Environmental Sample Laboratory, also known as the “clean lab”, in Seibersdorf, south of Vienna, Austria. This laboratory operates highly sophisticated equipment that can remove and analyse individual particles from the dust samples on the swipe. The elements that are of primary interest to the IAEA are uranium and plutonium. These can be used for peaceful purposes, for example energy production, but also for non-peaceful purposes.

At the laboratory the experts are analysing the amounts of fissile isotopes (U-235 and Pu-239) in the uranium and plutonium samples. Sample analysis helps the IAEA to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities and the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. 

Last update: 1 August 2018

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