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Press Release

NNSA Initiates International Nuclear Forensics Training with the IAEA
Mar 8, 2012

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announces the successful completion of the “International Workshop on Nuclear Forensics Methodologies,” held at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington, and conducted in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Office of Nuclear Security.



The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announces the successful completion of the “International Workshop on Nuclear Forensics Methodologies,” held at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington, and conducted in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Office of Nuclear Security.  The technical workshop brought together 24 participants from 12 countries -- Argentina, Brazil, China, Georgia, Hungary, Japan, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and Uzbekistan -- and featured presentations and hands-on exercises led by internationally recognized nuclear forensics scientists and technical experts from NNSA, U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the IAEA, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO), the European Commission Joint Research Centre’s Institute for Transuranium Elements (JRC-ITU), and the United Kingdom’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE).  

“Our partnership with the IAEA spans many areas, but nowhere is it more important for us to work together than in combating the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radiological materials,” said Anne Harrington, NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.  “In the Washington Nuclear Security Summit Communiqué and Work Plan, nuclear forensics capabilities were recognized as an indispensable tool for combating the illicit trafficking of nuclear materials.  An international approach to develop nuclear forensics capabilities and train experts strengthens nuclear security cooperation, builds confidence among states, and contributes to the global efforts to prevent nuclear and radiological smuggling.”

Nuclear forensics is the popular term for the scientific characterization and analysis of nuclear or other radiological materials, which can provide critical information on the place of origin and process history of nuclear materials. This information can help national authorities determine how and where control of material was lost and, when combined with law enforcement and intelligence information, can facilitate the prosecution of smuggling cases. 

David Smith, Senior Nuclear Security Officer at the IAEA, noted that, “In developing this workshop, we provided States the latest developments and technical guidance needed to conduct a comprehensive nuclear forensic investigation, and we have strengthened our partnership in the international fight against the illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials. The workshop emphasized the essential contribution of nuclear forensics to a comprehensive nuclear security infrastructure.  The NNSA is an essential partner in providing U. S. national laboratory expertise, curriculum development, and an international team of instructors to enhance nuclear forensics training opportunities globally.  We look forward to our continued joint efforts to strengthen nuclear forensics capabilities internationally.”

In 2006, the IAEA published Nuclear Security Series No. 2, “Nuclear Forensics Support,” which outlines the technical capabilities and procedures for nuclear forensic investigations, and incorporates expertise from law enforcement agencies and nuclear forensics laboratories to form clear guidelines for the international community. A primary goal of this week’s workshop was to strengthen the understanding of the nuclear forensics measurements that support a national response plan consistent with these IAEA guidelines.

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.