National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA Hosts International Nuclear Forensics Workshop with Participants from Eight Countries

May 22, 2015

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – During May 11-22, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Nuclear Smuggling Detection and Deterrence program held a hands-on nuclear forensics course at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington. The “International Training Course on Nuclear Forensics Methodologies,” was co-sponsored with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  Twenty participants from eight countries focused on the application of nuclear forensics methods during the investigation of nuclear or other radioactive material found outside of regulatory control.

“NNSA’s support to the IAEA’s international training courses is an important element of our broad commitment to nuclear security.  The current course on Nuclear Forensics Methodologies reflects an ongoing commitment to developing and promoting nuclear forensic science globally as a key element of the defense against trafficking,” said Anne Harrington, NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. “This course provides a forum for international experts to exercise their nuclear forensics capabilities, contributing to international efforts to prevent the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radiological materials.”

Building on previous successful workshops held in February 2012 and November 2013, this year’s event featured applied, hands-on training in the controlled setting of a nuclear forensics laboratory. Using a hypothetical illicit nuclear trafficking scenario, participants observed demonstrations of portal monitors and radiation detectors, and practiced preparing evidence for nuclear forensic analysis, conducting measurements using alpha and gamma spectrometry, and consulting nuclear forensics library databases to compare evidence samples with domestic holdings. The participants also had the opportunity to visit PNNL nuclear forensics laboratories.

Participating countries included Belarus, Chile, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Morocco, Moldova, and Slovakia.  Also supporting the event were U.S. experts from PNNL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; as well as foreign 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, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and the Swedish Defence Research Agency.

For a fact sheet on NNSA’s efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism, click here.

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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. 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.