Forensics in Nuclear Security

The Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) has taken the lead in coordinating an integrated international forensic response to nuclear terrorism. The Forensics in Nuclear Security Programme was set up as a direct result of the Nuclear Security Summit, held in the United States in 2010 on the initiative of (former) president Barack Obama.

Programme aims

The Forensics in Nuclear Security Programme is designed to bring nuclear science and forensic science together by promoting the sharing of knowledge. Its overall aim is to contribute to the protection of citizens and critical infrastructures against radiological or nuclear incidents, to improve responses to nuclear incidents around the world, and to give those involved in combating them the tools to work together as effectively as possible.

Integrating nuclear and conventional forensics

In the event of an incident involving nuclear or radioactive materials, containing and limiting damage would clearly be a top priority, and would fall to experts from specialised nuclear laboratories. But in such a situation, it is equally important to examine and evaluate the nuclear material so that its source and history can be traced.

Answering key questions about the immediate history of the radiological device or nuclear materials calls for traditional and modern forensic skills, such as fingerprinting, DNA profiling, and electronic and digital decoding, not to mention close coordination with law enforcement agencies and the intelligence services.

However, nuclear laboratories are generally unfamiliar with these forensic disciplines and have different concerns. Traditional forensic departments, on the other hand, are generally inexperienced in dealing with radioactive materials of any type, and lack suitable facilities.

To resolve this discrepancy in approach and enable specialists to carry out their work efficiently and effectively, without inhibiting each other, a number of steps need to be taken:

  • Creating awareness through education and training
  • Sharing best practices
  • Developing procedures and establish common terminology
  • Extending research

Sharing knowledge in practice

To support the improvement and coordination of responses to nuclear incidents around the world, the NFI has set up a restricted-access internet forum where nuclear scientists and forensic experts from around the world can share their opinions and experiences and learn from their colleagues. This forum is designed to bring together their broad expertise, to establish common terminology, share best practices, and raise awareness of practical issues by providing education and training.

For more information, please contact our Account Management Team.

Forensics in Nuclear Security