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Application of Nuclear Forensics in Illicit Trafficking of Nuclear and other Radioactive Materials (2008-2012)

Measurement of density is often an important nuclear forensic signature

Nuclear forensics uses measurements of isotopic, chemical and physical data characteristics (i.e., signatures) of samples to determine the origin and history of seized materials and can link these materials to individuals, places, and events important to a forensics examination. The experimental programme advanced the nuclear forensic state-of-practice to aid law enforcement response as well as assessments of nuclear security vulnerabilities.
Through diverse research topics that incorporated field based methods and evidence collection, laboratory based procedures and techniques, as well as modelling and interpretation, the technical work delivered procedures for enhanced categorization and characterization of nuclear and other radioactive materials seized out of regulatory control, techniques to preserve forensics evidence, and solutions to strengthen nuclear forensics as part of Member State's nuclear security infrastructure.

A new TECDOC 1730 entitled 'Application of Nuclear Forensics in Illicit Trafficking of Nuclear and other Radioactive Materials' has been recently published.
TECDOC link:

Conclusions demonstrated:

  1. the viability of nuclear forensics as a common technical discipline that can facilitate key international partnerships between Member States,
  2. the importance of sequencing nuclear forensics analysis to ensure the integrity of the ensuing forensics examination,
  3. the importance of modelling to establish predictive nuclear forensics signatures where samples are not available,
  4. the need for Member States to develop a national response plan that includes nuclear forensics as well as means of handling evidence contaminated with radioactive material, and
  5. the recognition for further peer reviewed research into nuclear forensics particularly in the area of identifying signatures to develop a national nuclear forensic library to aid in the interpretation of analytical results.

The results from the present work were incorporated as part of a new CRP (J02003) entitled “Identification of High Confidence Nuclear Forensics Signatures for the Development of a National Nuclear Forensics Library” that focuses on the identification of priority nuclear forensics signatures in the context of a national nuclear forensic library.

The following countries participated in the CRP: Australia, Brazil, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Republic of Korea.

More information on: http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/2012/nuclearforensics.html

Accurate measurements that minimize the potential for contamination ensure confidence in nuclear forensic conclusions:

Nuclear forensic analysis may involve the separation and concentration of radionuclides from a sample matrix using chemical exchange resins:

A priority for nuclear forensics is to ensure that appropriate specialized capabilities – to include a contamination-free fume hood - are available to preserve the evidence:

The ability to identify radioactive materials using hand held radiation detectors as part of an on scene survey is essential to initiate a nuclear forensic examination: