The International Atomic Energy Agency's Coordinated Research Project in Nuclear Forensics

Friday, February 17, 2017: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Room 203 (Hynes Convention Center)
David Smith, International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Austria
As a means to prevent and respond to a nuclear security event, nuclear forensics provides information on the origin and history of nuclear and other radioactive materials out of regulatory control in the context of international legal instruments and national laws related to nuclear security. By bridging nuclear science, law enforcement and nuclear security, nuclear forensics depends on diverse disciplines and technical capabilities. The strength of a nuclear forensics examination is not contingent upon a single technology but is derived from demonstrated confidence in conclusions following planned laboratory analysis and data interpretation. Innovation in nuclear forensics methodologies is driven by science and research. For this reason the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has prioritized Coordinated Research Projects (CRPs) in nuclear forensics as a means to provide scientifically validated and objective solutions to promote confidence in the conclusions from a nuclear forensics examination. In addition, CRPs also provide a mechanism to share the experience of researchers and examiners from around the world.

As States utilize nuclear forensics as a preventive and response to a nuclear security event, confidence required in the findings from a nuclear forensics examination is essential. Because nuclear forensics supports law enforcement investigations and nuclear security vulnerability assessments, the scientific methods supporting the examination need to be fully validated and defensible.

Recent research focuses on the identification of nuclear forensics data characteristics (or signatures), accurate measurement and prediction, the controls over their incorporation and persistence across the nuclear fuel cycle, and how signatures can be exploited as part of a nuclear forensic examination.

Outcomes highlight the development of new nuclear forensic analytical techniques to include nuclear and radioactive material age dating (i.e., time of production), morphology studies of nuclear materials bearing on origin and history; investigation of nuclear microparticles; the role of modeling to identify the origin of spent nuclear fuels; as well as the application of rare-earth elements to differentiate uranium ores and concentrates. Researchers note that multiple signatures are necessary for building confidence in conclusions made by the nuclear forensic laboratory.