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New IAEA Document Helps Nuclear Security Experts Investigate the Origin and History of Nuclear or Radioactive Material

Forensics Training

When nuclear or radioactive material is encountered out of regulatory control, it is crucial that nuclear forensic investigators learn about the material’s origin and history. To do so, they look at details in the characteristics of the material – known as nuclear forensic signatures – as these reveal important clues about this information.

To help experts make reliable conclusions about nuclear forensic signatures, the IAEA in August 2017 published a new technical document that highlight novel analytical techniques used by experts around the world.

The document, titled Identification of High Confidence Nuclear Forensics Signatures, presents 13 research papers that summarize recent research on the identification of nuclear forensics signatures. It aims to be a resource in the development of a national identification scheme for nuclear and other radioactive materials.

It compiles the results of an IAEA Coordinated Research Project conducted from 2013 and 2016 that involved 10 research institutions in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Sweden, as well as three technical contracts undertaken in parallel by investigators from the Russian Federation.

The document is a resource for experts who strive to accurately measure and interpret signatures so that law enforcement and other responsible authorities can rely on the results from a nuclear forensics examination. It highlights how signature examinations can support law enforcement investigations or assess nuclear security vulnerabilities and notes that multiple signatures are necessary to build confidence in findings.