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DHS Nuclear Forensics Efforts to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism Featured at IAEA Conference

Huban Gowadia
Director, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office:

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) joined the Departments of State and Energy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and 335 international experts and officials from 88 member states to participate in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) International Conference on Advances in Nuclear Forensics, Countering the Evolving Threat of Nuclear and Other Radioactive Material out of Regulatory Control in Vienna, Austria.

Conference participants were provided an overview of IAEA guidance on how nuclear forensics can be used to help ensure successful investigation of a nuclear security event. This guidance, which DNDO helped develop, promotes international cooperation in capability development as well as during investigations.

DNDO presented our National Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development program, which can serve as a model for other IAEA member nations. Established in 2008, the program is a comprehensive U.S. Government effort to grow and sustain the qualified technical expertise required to execute the nation’s nuclear forensics mission.

DNDO, together with the Department of State, also discussed the development of National Nuclear Forensics Libraries and the results of Galaxy Serpent—an international nuclear forensics exercise conducted by the Nuclear Forensics International Technical Working Group.  The forensics libraries are an organized collection of information on nuclear or other radioactive material produced, used, or stored by a country. Through the exercise, we were able to determine that these libraries can play a vital role in the investigation of a transnational nuclear security event.

Also highlighted were a number of technical advances in nuclear forensics signatures and analytical methods stemming from DNDO-sponsored research and development at the National Laboratories that will continue to advance our important mission.

Nuclear forensics is a keystone of nuclear security, as it supports international efforts to counter illicit trafficking of material that could be used in a potential terrorist attack, and helps to identify the origin and pathway of nuclear and other radioactive materials.  Through our ongoing efforts, both at home and with the international community, DNDO continues to help advance nuclear forensics capabilities to keep our Nation and our partners safe.

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