The international application of nuclear forensics, including the development of national nuclear forensics libraries, is essential to combat the transboundary movement of nuclear and other radioactive material out of regulatory control. A national nuclear forensics library is an authoritative record consisting of databases and potentially sample archives of nuclear and other radioactive material produced in, used or stored in a State. Research and development is necessary in order to address the science of nuclear forensic signatures to provide peer reviewed and validated signatures across the nuclear fuel cycle and through the manufacture of radioactive sources. This CRP will address the data requirements of a national nuclear forensics library for each stage of the nuclear fuel cycle (as determined by IAEA experts) and for the manufacture of radioactive sources, as well as promote research into novel signatures that are indicative of nuclear processing and important to high confidence nuclear forensics interpretation (eg. application of high precision, high abundance sensitivity mass spectrometry; stable isotope systematics; optimized use of radiogenic isotopes and rare earth trace elements). Of interest are resolving signatures imparted naturally as uranium is mined from those signatures that are introduced as a result of production and manufacturing processes during milling, isotopic enrichment, fuel manufacture and reactor operations. A fundament question to be addressed by this CRP is how nuclear forensics signatures are imparted and how they persist. The results from this CRP will be used to provide technical guidance to States for the development of national nuclear forensics libraries, including the identification of high priority nuclear forensics signatures - related to material history - to be included.
Discovery and innovation is a vital element of a sustainable program in nuclear forensics, and research promotes the validation of techniques, approaches and signatures for effective use as part of a comprehensive nuclear security infrastructure. As more States both contemplate and develop national nuclear forensics capabilities, the demands on the science supporting nuclear forensics will increase to best address law enforcement and nuclear security requirements as well as the confidence in the findings from an examination. Research further serves as a mean to promote confidence in nuclear forensics by involving investigators, law enforcement applications and nuclear science working collectively with shared goals and objectives. For this reason, the IAEA attaches importance to on-going efforts to share common experiences from coordinated research programmes with the intention of involving new participants to work with established experts and focusing on contributing meaningfully to advancing nuclear security globally.
Successful implementation of nuclear forensics requires the identification of data characteristics, or signatures, that provide information on the origin and history of nuclear and other radioactive materials that may be encountered out of regulatory control. These signatures may include stable and radiogenic isotopes, trace elements, morphological characteristics and other indicators bearing on the formative geology or processing of nuclear materials. Similar indicators may be used to identify radioactive sources, The ability to identify which signatures, or groups of signatures, are indicative of stages of the nuclear fuel cycle and radioactive source production is important to both nuclear forensic examination and subsequent interpretations. This CRP J02003 yielded a wealth of information from uranium ores, uranium ore concentrates, intermediate uranium products, nuclear fuels, spent nuclear forensics and radioactive sources that can be used to aid identification and interpretation as part of a nuclear security investigation. In addition it enabled investigators with diverse knowledge of the nuclear fuel cycle to share insights into recommended techniques and methods to measure and predict these signatures building confidence the conclusions drawn from an examination.