Radiological crime scene management

Radiological crime scene management is the process used to ensure safe, secure, effective and efficient operations at a crime scene where nuclear or other radioactive materials are known, or suspected, to be present. The IAEA supports Member States through its security guidance publications, training courses and knowledge-sharing among practitioners.

A site associated with a nuclear security event may contain trace evidence of activities believed, or alleged, to have included a criminal or intentional unauthorized act involving nuclear or other radioactive material. Such a site is called a radiological crime scene. It is essential to ensure that all actions at a radiological crime scene are carried out in a way that maintains the integrity of the criminal investigation and that all relevant criminal investigative procedures are applied through effective radiological crime scene management.

Managing a radiological crime scene is a key part of responding to a nuclear security event. Collecting evidence at radiological crime scenes may share a wide range of characteristics with that at conventional crime scenes, such as evidence search patterns, geographical scene modelling and evidence recording, whether or not explosives are involved.

However, operations at a radiological crime scene differ from those at most other crime scenes with respect to the need to control a number of elements, including: the time spent in the hazard control areas; the distance between the evidence contaminated with radionuclides and the individual collecting the evidence; the radiation shielding between the evidence and the individual collecting the evidence; radionuclide contamination; and individual radiation exposure.

There are interfaces between nuclear security, radiation safety and nuclear or radiological emergency response that need to be considered for the management of a radiological crime scene. In particular, law enforcement operations, radiation protection procedures and emergency response activities should be applied simultaneously and in a coordinated manner at a radiological crime scene.

The effective management of these scenarios requires a national response system for managing a nuclear security event to be in place. A national response system for managing a nuclear security event is an essential part of a State’s nuclear security infrastructure.

The IAEA assists States in developing nuclear forensics as a technical capability to prevent and respond to nuclear security events. It organizes training to raise awareness of nuclear forensics, to assist practitioners in state of the art nuclear forensic methodologies, and to orient responders to radiological crime scene management including evidence collection for nuclear forensics. It also offers a computer-based training on radiological crime scene management.

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