Nuclear Engineering ETDs


John Perry

Publication Date



The passage of cosmic-ray muons through matter is dominated by the Coulomb interaction with electrons and atomic nuclei. The muons interaction with electrons leads to continuous energy loss and stopping through the process of ionization. The muon's interaction with nuclei leads to angular diffusion. If a muon stops in matter, other processes unfold, as discussed in more detail below. These interactions provide the basis for advanced applications of cosmic-ray muon radiography discussed here, specifically: 1) imaging a nuclear reactor with near horizontal muons, and 2) identifying materials through the analysis of radiation lengths weighted by density and secondary signals that are induced by cosmic-ray muon trajectories. We have imaged a nuclear reactor, type AGN-201m, at the University of New Mexico, using data measured with a particle tracker built from a set of sealed drift tubes, the Mini Muon Tracker (MMT). Geant4 simulations were compared to the data for verification and validation. In both the data and simulation, we can identify regions of interest in the reactor including the core, moderator, and shield. This study reinforces our claims for using muon tomography to image reactors following an accident. Warhead and special nuclear materials (SNM) imaging is an important thrust for treaty verification and national security purposes. The differentiation of SNM from other materials, such as iron and aluminum, is useful for these applications. Several techniques were developed for material identification using cosmic-ray muons. These techniques include: 1) identifying the radiation length weighted by density of an object and 2) measuring the signals that can indicate the presence of fission and chain reactions. By combining the radiographic images created by tracking muons through a target plane with the additional fission neutron and gamma signature, we are able to locate regions that are fissionable from a single side. The following materials were imaged with this technique: aluminum, concrete, steel, lead, and uranium. Provided that there is sufficient mass, U-235 could be differentiated from U-238 through muon induced fission.


muon, tomography, muon induced fission, reactor imaging, imaging, Geant4, SNM, tagged imaging, nuclear reactor, Fukushima


Department of State, Defense Threat Reduction Agency

Document Type




Degree Name

Nuclear Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Nuclear Engineering

First Advisor

Hecht, Adam

First Committee Member (Chair)

Hecht, Adam

Second Committee Member

Oliveira, Cassiano

Third Committee Member

Seidel, Sally

Fourth Committee Member

Borozdin, Konstantin