On March 26-27, President Obama joined 53 world leaders in Seoul, South Korea for the second Nuclear Security Summit to review progress and recommit to a shared mission to improve global nuclear security, and provide a platform for international leaders to further advance this mission. In 2010, President Obama convened the first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., bringing together 47 countries to agree to secure all vulnerable nuclear material within four years.
Nuclear Detection and Forensics at DHS
The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) is the lead agency in the U.S. government for implementing domestic nuclear detection efforts and developing a global nuclear detection architecture (GNDA). DNDO works with federal, state, local, tribal, international, and private sector partners to fulfill this mission.
DNDO is also responsible for the advancement, integration, and stewardship of the nation's nuclear forensics program. DNDO coordinates nuclear forensics efforts across the U.S. government with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Departments of Defense, Energy, and State, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Since the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit, DNDO is proud to have advanced the goal of nuclear security with accomplishments across the following critical mission areas:
DNDO has made important strides in improving detection technologies, strengthening international partnerships, and increasing the number of law enforcement personnel trained in detection-related equipment.
- Helium-3 alternative technologies: DNDO has developed alternatives for neutron detection that will eliminate the need to use the depleting Helium-3 resource. Three of the designs are already in the correct form/size for a radiation portal monitor. The engineering needed to integrate and test the system in other detection form factors (Backpacks, Handhelds and Vehicle Mounted Systems) is currently underway. A fourth He-3 alternative (BF3) design has also passed all of the requirements (including environmental).
- R&D to support detection: DNDO executes an aggressive research and development (R&D) program to develop breakthrough technologies to detect and identify nuclear threats. Examples include new radiation sensing materials that offer significant improvements in performance, decreased cost, and novel characteristics such as dual gamma and neutron sensitivity; advances in long-range radiation sensing; and new technologies to detect shielded special nuclear materials.
- ITRAP+10: DNDO partnered with the European Commission's Joint Research Center to conduct the Illicit Trafficking Radioactive Assessment Program+10 (ITRAP+10), a three-year test program to gauge the performance of nine categories of commercially available radiological detection and identification instruments. As part of this effort, nearly one hundred instruments are undergoing testing in both Europe and in the U.S. Once completed, the test results will provide the international community - as well as U.S. federal, state, and local law enforcement - valuable information about which radiological detection and identification instruments can best serve their operational needs.
- Training: Since the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit, DNDO has facilitated the delivery of radiological and nuclear detection training to more than 8,500 federal, state and local officers and first responders nationwide.
- GICNT Best Practices Guides: DNDO launched a multi-year workplan under the framework of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism's (GICNT) Nuclear Detection Working Group to develop collaborative guidelines and best practices that will significantly enhance the global nuclear detection architecture (GNDA). In 2011, DNDO led the 82-nation GICNT Nuclear Detection Group's efforts in developing Volume II in the Developing a Nuclear Detection Architecture Series: Guidelines on Awareness, Training and Exercises for radiological and nuclear detection. DNDO launched its 2012 activity at recent discussions in Marrakech, Morocco in February 2012. This year-long effort will culminate in the collaborative international development of Volume III of the Series focused on Guidelines for Planning and Organization.
Nuclear forensics was highlighted in the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit Communiqué and Work Plan as an important tool for international collaboration to strengthen nuclear security. Nuclear forensics helps trace the origin of seized nuclear and other radioactive materials or devices, supports the identification of smuggling networks, aids prosecution efforts of such illicit trafficking, and assists in uncovering vulnerabilities in security measures to ensure nuclear and other radioactive materials remain under regulatory control. DNDO has played a key role in fulfilling the nuclear forensics-related pledges made at the 2010 Summit and identified in the Work Plan:
DNDO contributed to bilateral and multilateral training on scientist and law enforcement engagement for nuclear forensics and crime scene management, including the design and execution of a first-of-a-kind nuclear forensics tabletop exercise for 15 member nations of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.
DNDO provided technical expertise on international efforts to develop a framework for national nuclear forensics libraries with interagency partners and the IAEA, which provides a basis for nations to move forward in developing libraries. This conceptual framework was published by IAEA and provided to all national delegations attending the Nuclear Security Summit 2012. Such national libraries will enable countries to determine if radioactive material encountered outside of regulatory control is, or is not, consistent with their own material holdings.
DNDO supported the development of an initial lexicon of nuclear forensics-related terms. This lexicon helps promote clear communication and common understanding within the international community by standardizing terms and their definitions pertaining to forensics-related activities. The lexicon will help to ensure that confidence levels attached to findings are effectively conveyed.
DNDO was instrumental in the development of the U.S. joint classification guide to assist in clarifying information that can be shared with international partners in order to facilitate nuclear forensics collaboration.
Finally, DNDO expanded its support for the National Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development Program, which provides scholarship and research activities for graduate and post-graduate students and universities, and implemented new initiatives for junior faculty awards, mentoring and undergraduate students.