In the event of a nuclear detonation, nuclear forensic conclusions, combined with information from law enforcement investigations and intelligence, will help identify those responsible. DHS is in charge of ensuring that the nation’s nuclear forensics capability is prepared to respond to a radiological or nuclear event. The first step in the nuclear forensics process, in the event of a detonation, is to collect samples near the incident site both in the air and on the ground for analysis at designated laboratories.
On July 26-31, DHS, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Departments of Defense and Energy conducted an exercise of the National Technical Nuclear Forensics (NTNF) Ground Collections Task Force (GCTF) to test this ground collection capability at Jefferson Proving Grounds in Madison, Ind.
Exercise Prominent Hunt 12 was based on a scenario involving a detonation of a terrorist improvised nuclear device and was conducted as part of the DOD Vibrant Response 13 Exercise. GCTF members practiced the federal response to this hypothetical scenario—from initial notification of an attack, deployment to the site, collection of debris ground samples, to the transport of the samples to a designated laboratory for nuclear forensics analysis. This exercise demonstrated the readiness of the GCTF to respond quickly with little to no warning and to effectively execute its mission. The National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center within DHS’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) led the planning for this exercise and facilitated its execution.
The GCTF is part of the U.S. Government NTNF program which includes the Department of State and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in addition to DHS, the Department of Energy, FBI, and the Department of Defense. DNDO is mandated under the Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-140) to provide centralized stewardship, planning, assessment, gap analysis, exercises, improvement, and integration for all Federal nuclear forensics activities. Nuclear forensics helps the U.S. Government to hold fully accountable any state, terrorist group, or other non-state actor that either supports or enables terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction.