Applying Nuclear Forensic Science to Respond to a Nuclear Security Event

Open for proposals

Project Type

Coordinated Research Project

Project Code




Approved Date

6 March 2018


Active - Ongoing

Start Date

25 January 2019

Expected End Date

30 June 2023

Participating Countries

South Africa
Viet Nam


Nuclear and radioactive material out of regulatory control continues to be officially reported by participating States to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Incident and Trafficking Database (ITDB). From 1993 to the end of 2016, 3068 incidents have been transmitted to the Agency’s ITDB; approximately 100 to 150 incidents are reported annually. Nuclear forensic science is increasingly used by States to respond to nuclear security events in support of a prosecution of those responsible for these unauthorized acts as well as support to nuclear security vulnerability assessments. Successful nuclear forensic examinations are predicated by strong links between nuclear science laboratory measurements and meeting the needs of law enforcement for the successful prosecution of nuclear security events. While past coordinated research focused on development of an array of techniques and methods for categorization, characterization and interpretation of this data, States will benefit from better implementation of validated procedures and methods consistent with the requirements of a successful criminal prosecution in the courtroom. This research will yield enhanced methods to document and collect evidence, timely measures to identify nuclear and other radioactive materials that pose a nuclear security threat, improved processing of traditional forensics evidence contaminated with radionuclides, use of standard reference materials to improve quantitation of results, more sensitive techniques to measure small samples and particles, and better understanding and utilization of nuclear techniques by law enforcement and court officials. Taken together, the goal of this Coordinated Research Project (CRP) is to improve the implementation of nuclear forensic science in the context of national laws, as well as international legal instruments, that criminalize unauthorized acts involving nuclear and other radioactive material out of regulatory control.


The CRP seeks to promote the implementation of nuclear forensic science consistent with national laws and international legal instruments and in particular link nuclear science with investigative requirements.

Specific objectives

Studies to exploit digital evidence taken from radiologically contaminated devices.

Using enhanced gamma ray spectrometry methods to increase the speed, accuracy and precision of capabilities for nuclear forensic science categorization and characterization.

Use of digital technologies for centralized registration and cataloguing of evidence collected at a nuclear security event, establishment of a chain of custody, development of evidence collection plans, and dissemination of categorization results.

Use of small sample techniques (electron and ion microbeam as well as other) to limit complicated bulk sample digestions in the laboratory.

Development of enhanced measures for recovery of traditional forensics (DNA, latent fingerprints, dust, fibres, toolmarks) at a radiological crime scene through field based kits and portable technologies as well as development of approaches in clinical forensic medicine and forensic pathology bearing on radiation exposure as part of a nuclear forensics examination.

Enhanced measures to screen packages and heterogeneous evidence for radionuclides to protect on-scene responders and expedite evidence recovery and analytical planning.

Ensure that results of a nuclear forensics examination can support the prosecution of criminal offenses involving smuggled nuclear and other radioactive material.

Studies in the context of nuclear forensic science (to include identification of trace impurities) of sealed radioactive sources used in industry and medicine (e.g. 60Co, 137Cs and others). Nuclear forensic analyses of americium and plutonium sources (for example, those used in ionizing smoke detectors).

Contact the project officer

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Stay in touch