Argonne National Laboratory

Argonne National Laboratory


Argonne National Laboratory is operated by the University of Chicago for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Located in Argonne, Illinois, the lab is divided operationally into five principle divisions: Physical, Biological & Computing Sciences; Advanced Photon Source; Energy & Environmental Science & Technology; Engineering Research; and Operations.

Argonne scientists collaborate on several projects related to nuclear safety. Argonne's International Nuclear Safety Center (INSC) is dedicated to improving safety related technology and safety protocols for nucler reactors—including reactors in the former Soviet Union. Funded by DOE's Office of Nonproliferation and National Security, INSC scientists maintain an extensive database related to a variety of nuclear facilities. The INSC database is organized so that researchers can quickly access site-specific information on reactors around the world.

Argonne scientists provide technical support to several agencies involved in stemming proliferation or use of weapons of mass destruction. As of 2003, Argonne's national security related programs supported research dedicated to developing technology—and providing expert guidance—related to arms control and nuclear, chemical, and biological counter-terrorism.

Argonne developed technologies include methods to track nuclear fuels and to support nuclear waste cleanup of spent fuels.

Argonne scientists have developed an electrometallurgical treatment process to handle spent nuclear fuels. The treatment process uses electrorefining techniques that separate uranium, radioactive wastes, and inert materials in sodium bonded metallic fuels. In preparing nuclear waste for disposal, the electrometallurgical treatment process allows the isolation and removal of uranium and also allows the remaining waste into a ceramic or a metal alloy by heating and compressing a composite of borosilicate glass and zeolite (a mineral that incorporates fission waste products). Components of the metal alloy are derived from the steel cladding used to encase the fuel in the reactor. By restricting plutonium access—binding it with waste products—the plutonium is placed in a form that reduces or eliminates its potential use in a nuclear weapon.

In support of several agencies, Argonne scientists are capable of providing field measurements of radiation exposure dangers and of guiding decontamination efforts associated with reactor decontamination and decommissioning. Part of the decommissioning effort is dedicated to ensuring safe disposal of nuclear fuels so that the fuels can not be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.

Argonne engineers collaborate on efforts to develop sensitive detectors capable of identifying concealed nuclear materials.

Argonne personnel provide technical expertise to Federal Bureau of Investigation counterterrorism operations and aid in domestic infrastructure assurance programs designed to improve security at critical U.S. infrastructure sites. For example, Argonne's PROTECT system, developed by the Decision and Information Sciences Division, features an integrated detection, communication and response program to secure subways against chemical attacks.

Argonne research also includes efforts to improve instruments and sensors capable of detecting chemical and biological agents. As a part of the Joint Chemical Aid Detector Program, Argonne researchers developed portable cyanide-gas microsensors. Engineers are especially interested in developing hypersensitive detectors capable of identifying trace evidence of dangerous chemical or biological agents and developed a series of portable biochip microarrays that are capable of detecting bioagents, including anthrax bacterium.

Argonne's Advanced Photon Source (APS) allows study of the 3-D structure of toxins—including Anthrax toxins. Micro Array of Gel-Immobilized Compounds or MAGIC chips were developed by Argonne researchers to identify biological pathogens and disease related genetic mutations.



Environmental Measurements Laboratory. National Security. < > (March 16, 2003).

United States Department of Energy, Office of Science. National Laboratories and User Facilities. < es.htm > (March 23, 2003).

United States Department of Homeland Security. Research & Technology. < > (March 23, 2003).


Brookhaven National Laboratory
DOE (United States Department of Energy)
Environmental Measurements Laboratory
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)
Los Alamos National Laboratory
NNSA (United States National Nuclear Security Administration)
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Plum Island Animal Disease Center
Sandia National Laboratories

President Bush, center, gets a look at new weapons in the war on terror during a visit to the Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois. AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS.
President Bush, center, gets a look at new weapons in the war on terror during a visit to the Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois.

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