There has been an advance in detecting nuclear operations from a distance of 9 kilometers (30,000 feet, the height that planes often fly) using millimeter radar and terahertz radiation which could be important in determining targets in Iran. There is also new fast detection at a distance of chemicals and explosives, which is clearly useful for anti-terrorism.
The potential of a militarily useful remote nuke and nuclear materials detection means that the US could first strike N Korea or Iran (or anyone else for that matter). If there detector could 100% identify nuclear weapons and material (even with false positives of 10 times.) that would be good enough.
The opposition response would be to arms race and to get and distribute nuclear material to every location maybe not the weaponized uranium but the pre-centrifuged stuff. If the US could tell those apart with reasonable accuracy. The planes/drones with detectors fly over at 9 km height and drop bombs and missiles, taking out every positive reading. They can check the quality of the detectors against their own weapons stockpile.
Successful version of this tech means the US lets you stay in the nuclear club at their discretion.
If you have thousands of weapons, (Soviets and China, UK, France) where you could counter punch as the first strike is launching. Those with many weapons would stay in the club. But if you just got a handful of weapons it would be game over.
A good remote nuclear weapons/weapons material detector = first strike target finder.
Engineers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, using an emerging sensing technology, have developed a suite of sensors for national security applications that can quickly and effectively detect chemical, biological, nuclear and explosive materials. Argonne engineers have successfully performed the first-ever remote detection of chemicals and identification of unique explosives spectra using a spectroscopic technique that uses the properties of the millimeter/terahertz frequencies between microwave and infrared on the electromagnetic spectrum. The researchers used this technique to detect spectral "fingerprints" that uniquely identify explosives and chemicals.
They accomplished three important goals:
* Detected and measured poison gas precursors 60 meters away in the Nevada Test Site to an accuracy of 10 parts per million using active sensing.
* Identified chemicals related to defense applications, including nuclear weapons, from 600 meters away using passive sensing at the Nevada Test Site.
* Built a system to identify the spectral fingerprints of trace levels of explosives, including DNT, TNT, PETN, RDX and plastics explosives semtex and C-4.
Operating at frequencies between 0.1 and 10 terahertz, the sensitivity is four to five orders of magnitude higher and imaging resolution is 100 to 300 times more than possible at microwave frequencies.
To remotely detect radiation from nuclear accidents or reactor operations, Argonne researchers are testing millimeter-wave radars and developing models to detect and interpret radiation-induced effects in air that cause radar reflection and scattering. Preliminary results of tests, in collaboration with AOZT Finn-Trade of St. Peterspurg, Russia, with instruments located 9 km from a nuclear power plant showed clear differences between when the plant was operating and when it was idling.