In the spring and summer of 1974, Group A-1 (The Safeguards Group) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), under the leadership of G. Robert Keepin, developed an instrument to measure the uranium enrichment of gaseous UF6 by using an in-line NaI detector to measure the gamma-ray signature at the output of the diffusion cascade. The success resulted in Goodyear Atomic (at that time the contractor operating the Portsmouth facility) requesting the lab to produce six more of the instruments for deployment in other areas at the plant. As the lab was not in the business of producing commercial equipment, Dr. Ray Martin worked with the procurement agent at Goodyear Atomic to find a commercial vendor to build the instruments. After several months of solicitations from several likely vendors, A-1 discovered that it was not economically feasible for any commercial operation to produce six unique instruments.
Late one Friday afternoon in 1975, the Goodyear procurement agent asked Dave Jones and Dr. Martin to build the instruments for them as a small supplier. When the procurement agent wanted a name for the purchase order, they kicked around the idea and decided to call their homespun effort Jomar Systems, using Jones and Martin as the genesis for the name.
The assistant group leader, when he heard of what Dave and Ray were considering, informed them that there was a clear conflict of interest, and that they would likely be fired if they proceeded. After stewing all weekend over the issue, Ray stopped in early Monday and spoke with Harold Agnew, LANL Director to discuss the issue. Apparently, the Lab had been getting flak from the AEC in Washington to do more technical spinoff from work at the laboratory into the commercial arena. Therefore, perceiving the political advantages, he was most supportive of the idea of creating Jomar Systems to work with Goodyear Atomic at Portsmouth, and, after completing the necessary forms for permission to engage in outside activities, they were in business.
Jomar built the six units in their basements, and delivered the equipment to Portsmouth. Goodyear Atomic subsequently ordered two more units. By this time, the Hanford facility had heard about their start-up company, and called about building them a custom low-level gamma waste monitor. Jomar Systems was up and running (now with two customers).
During the next two years, Jomar automated the reheat furnaces at Gilmore Steel in Portland, Oregon, designed and built non-destructive assay instruments for LANL, and built equipment for several other facilities, always focusing on custom instrumentation that was unique to the application and generally of no interest to larger companies.
Additional projects came from the LANL from technology transfers. Most significant was a shift register instrument, which became the JSR-11, and multiple passive and active neutron coincident counters. When the components for the JSR-11 started to become obsolete, a new shift register was developed by Jomar, the JSR-12. These safeguard instruments were fabricated and sold to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Euratom, LANL, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
In addition to neutron counters, a number of Segmented Gamma Scanners were developed for Rocky Flats, Babcock and Wilcox in Lynchburg, and LANL for safeguards and waste measurement applications.
Other significant gamma detection systems developed in concert with LANL were vehicle and pedestrian portal monitors. These were installed at various laboratory sites where special nuclear materials were stored. A line of hand held gamma and neutron detectors were also developed during this same time.
In 1989, Canberra was looking to expand into the systems business. They could develop their own neutron counters and portal monitors, or acquire an established business. In early 1990, Canberra acquired Jomar and, in 1993, relocated fabrication to Meriden.