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NEW CRP: Applying Nuclear Forensic Science to Respond to a Nuclear Security Event (J02013)

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Nuclear forensic science supports nuclear security event investigation and seeks to identify what the materials are, how, when and where they were made, basing on various scientific disciplines. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

The IAEA is launching a new coordinated research project in which nuclear forensic scientists from different States with various capabilities will work together to improve the implementation of nuclear forensics in the context of national laws, and to support investigative needs.

Nuclear forensics is the analysis of nuclear and other radioactive material, or evidence contaminated by radionuclides, in the context of legal proceedings under international or national law related to nuclear security. Nuclear forensics is increasingly used by States to respond to nuclear crime and other unauthorized acts involving nuclear and other radioactive material out of regulatory control as well as to support to nuclear security vulnerability assessments. Successful nuclear forensics examinations involve nuclear forensic measurements - conducted in the field or at dedicated laboratories - that meet the needs of law enforcement for prosecution of nuclear security events.

This research will yield enhanced methods to document and collect evidence, to rapidly identify nuclear and other radioactive material that pose a nuclear security threat, and to process traditional forensics evidence contaminated with radionuclides. Furthermore, the project will contribute to improved quantitation of results through the use of standard reference materials and more sensitive techniques to measure small samples and particles. It is also expected to result in better understanding and use of nuclear forensic science by law enforcement and legal officers. States will benefit from better implementation of validated procedures and methods that are consistent with the requirements of a successful criminal prosecution.

CRP Overall Objective:

This CRP seeks to promote consistent and scientifically defensible implementation of nuclear forensics examination in line with national laws and international legal instruments. In particular, it seeks to link nuclear science with investigative requirements.

Research Topics Include:

  • Use of gamma ray spectrometry and other techniques to increase the speed, accuracy and precision of categorization and characterization for States to optimize their existing nuclear forensics capabilities;
  • Improved measures to screen packages and heterogeneous evidence for radionuclides to protect on-scene responders and expedite evidence recovery and analytical planning;
  • Use of small sample techniques (including electron and ion microbeam) to limit complicated bulk sample digestions in the laboratory;
  • Study of characteristics, having nuclear forensic applications like trace impurities and isotope ratios, of sealed radioactive sources using in industry and medicine as well as americium and plutonium sources (for example, those used in ionizing smoke detectors);
  • Application of digital technologies for nuclear forensics (for example, for centralized registration and cataloguing of evidence collected at a nuclear security event, establishment of a chain of custody, and dissemination of categorization results) as well as study digital evidence taken from radiologically contaminated devices;
  • Development of enhanced measures for recovery of traditional forensics (e.g. DNA, latent fingerprints, dust, fibres, tool marks) at a radiological crime scene through portable technologies as well as development of approaches in clinical forensic medicine and pathology bearing on radiation exposure as part of a nuclear forensics examination;
  • Techniques and methods to ensure that results of a nuclear forensics examination can support the prosecution of criminal offenses involving smuggled nuclear and other radioactive material.

How to join the CRP?

Please submit your Proposal for Research Contract or Agreement  to the IAEA’s Research Contracts Administration Section, using the templates on the CRA web site. For further information please email the  the Nuclear Forensics Contact Point.

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