WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) completed a ten-day nuclear forensics workshop at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Wash., this week. Twenty-six participants from ten countries participated in the event, which was jointly sponsored with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and focused on tools to help law enforcement investigations of incidents in which nuclear or other radioactive material is found outside of regulatory control.
“Our partnership with the IAEA in hosting this workshop reflects our commitment to developing and promoting nuclear forensic science, a field of critical importance to nuclear security,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington. “Nuclear forensics supports the NNSA mission to advance global nuclear security by strengthening material attribution efforts. We look forward to continued engagements with the IAEA and the experts who participated.”
Nuclear scientists, law enforcements officials and forensic specialists from around the world came together from October 28 to November 8 for the international workshop. The participating countries were Algeria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Building on a successful workshop in February 2012, this year’s event featured applied, hands-on training in the controlled setting of a nuclear forensics laboratory. During a hypothetical scenario involving a smuggling interdiction, participants practiced preparing evidence for analysis, conducting measurements using gamma spectroscopy and alpha spectrometry, and consulting materials databases for similarities to their evidence samples. They also observed demonstrations of portal monitors and radiation detectors and visited PNNL nuclear forensics laboratories.
In addition to PNNL, NNSA’s Office of Nonproliferation and International Security drew on the expertise and resources of Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Experts from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre Institute for Transuranium Elements, the United Kingdom’s Atomic Weapons Establishment, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also contributed to the workshop curriculum.
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. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce 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.