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Last week, I was in the Netherlands where I participated in @tomic 2014, an international table-top exercise conducted from February 18-20 that focused on international efforts to prevent nuclear and radiological terrorism. As we have seen from seizures of weapon-grade nuclear material in Georgia in 2010 and Moldova in 2011, such materials remain in illegal circulation on the black market, where they are vulnerable to smugglers and potential terrorists. To combat this threat, nations must work together, build capabilities and enhance communications through exercises such as @tomic 2014.
The U.S. delegation to @tomic 2014 was led by the Department of State (DOS) and included representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS, along with DOS, helped design and facilitate @tomic 2014, which involved fictitious but realistic nuclear security scenarios, including smuggling and the threat of terrorism, on a global scale.
Altogether, 31 nations and several international organizations, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, International Criminal Police Organization, European Police Office, United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Institute, and the European Commission, participated in this exercise, with additional nations observing. During the course of three days, over 200 international participants had the opportunity to practice working together in an exercise to respond to nuclear threats.
One of the major goals of this Dutch-led exercise was to enhance knowledge and awareness of how nuclear forensics can be used in nuclear smuggling cases. Nuclear forensics helps to determine the possible source of smuggled material, gauge the extent of global smuggling networks, and help refine investigative priorities. As a result, nuclear forensics is playing an increasingly valuable role internationally in nuclear smuggling cases.
@tomic 2014 is one of three events leading up to the Nuclear Security Summit 2014 that will also be hosted by the Netherlands in The Hague on March 24-25 with the expected participation of almost 60 world leaders. The exercise supported key goals of enhancing and sustaining nuclear security for the future, and advancing regional and international cooperation to enable an effective global nuclear security community.
Preventing a nuclear or radiological terrorist attack against the United States is the mission of the nuclear experts, law enforcement, and military personnel who make up the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office at DHS and collaborating with our international partners in these types of exercises and events are vital in our efforts to help build global counter nuclear smuggling capabilities.