Nuclear Forensics Project
Eileen S. Vergino
Lawrence Livermore National
National programs in technical nuclear
• Acquire multiple signatures in order to assess
the source, route and individuals involved in
smuggling of nuclear and radiologic materials
– Chemical, isotopic and physical signatures
– Compare to known samples from throughout the
fuel cycle
– Emphasis on material properties
– Partnership with law enforcement
.....analysis of nuclear or radioactive materials and any associated
material to identify the source of the materials, determine the point of
origin and routes of transit, and ultimately to contribute evidence for
nuclear attribution…..
Current international needs and
requirements for nuclear forensics
• Rigorous nuclear forensics analysis that incorporate quality assurance,
standardized procedures and proficiency testing
• Discovery science to determine the persistence of nuclear forensics
signatures (isotopic, chemical, and physical) and relation to source
and manufacture
• Access to representative and well pedigreed samples from across the
nuclear fuel cycle for comparison
• Technical, operational and administrative structure of a directory of
national nuclear forensics libraries to enable comprehensive
interpretation of nuclear forensics data
• Training and outreach that both provides orientation to nuclear
forensics applications (customs, law enforcement) as well as preferred
methods for conducting nuclear forensics investigation (e.g., Model
Action Plan)
Ukraine – scientifically based technical
exchange and capacity building
• Analytical method sharing and round-robin activities with nuclear
materials from across the fuel cycle
• Cooperative research and development to identify and validate signatures
of nuclear materials from across the fuel cycle
• Cooperative research and development to develop tools for determining
nuclear material provenance; comparisons between forensic and known
sample characteristics;
• Scientific engagement to promote nonproliferation nuclear forensics and
best practices, including sample and data exchange
• Scientific engagement to develop architectures and search engines for
nuclear forensic databases
• Developing agreements to share information and materials from the front
end of the nuclear fuel cycle, e.g., U-ore and ore concentrate
• Exchanging quality assurance and laboratory best-practices
Georgia – capacity building and technical
• Cooperative research and development of analytical
methods used in technical nuclear forensics
• Bilateral sample and data exchanges to facilitate a better
understanding of laboratory analysis capabilities
• Sharing of data for international nuclear forensic database
activities (including ITWG e.g.)
• Scientific engagement to develop architectures and search
engines for nuclear forensic databases, including capturing
critical country-specific nuclear material forensic
• Engagement to promote nonproliferation best practices
and understanding
Azerbaijan – capacity building to ensure infrastructure and
procedures for nuclear sample handling
• Promoting a basic understanding of nonproliferation
nuclear forensics, including developing best practices for
technical nuclear forensic activities
• Promoting the development of basic response protocols for
securing interdicted materials with a focus on chain of
custody to ensure sample integrity
• Sharing of non-destructive assay/minimally destructive
analysis techniques for nuclear materials identification and
• Developing procedures for shipping materials to
appropriate facilities for forensic analysis
Nuclear forensics is predicated on strong technical
partnerships – collaboration in Central Asia
During the Soviet era, uranium ore from Tajikistan,
Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan was
mined and milled into yellowcake
Kaji-Say Uranium Mill,
Security concerns
– Common borders
– Decline in the post-Soviet economy
and infrastructure
– Legacy radioactive inventories
– Smuggling; RDD threat
Alkaline earths (Ca), trace metals, and U234 isotopic content distinguish source
Taboshar Uranium Mill,
Lack of physical protection
10,000 kg of poorly secured
uranium ore concentrate
Presence in the region secures samples and data for a nuclear
forensic database
Central Asia is an essential partner in international efforts to secure
nuclear and radioactive materials along the “Silk Road”
Adapting methods to existing capabilities
– Shared understanding by relevant officials and experts needed
Engagement in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan predicated on
strong laboratory-to-laboratory partnerships
Emphasis for on-the-ground site visits
– access for US experts to major uranium producing and milling
Representative 5 to 10 gram aliquots collected; radiological
information collected in the field (e.g., 40K, 232Th, 226Ra, alpha
survey) to categorize samples for analysis and shipping
Samples shipped to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for
analysis of uranium isotopes, major elements, and trace elements
Peer-review of the data
The science of nuclear forensics stimulates
ministerial and regional awareness of the challenges
of nuclear proliferation and terrorism
affecting Central Asia
Nuclear forensics engagement links technical
capabilities to end-user applications
2008 All-Central Asia Nuclear Safety Workshop
November 12-14, 2008
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Law enforcement working cooperatively
with nuclear scientists to advance nuclear forensics
Information sharing between
governments and different
Forum for current capabilities and
recent technical accomplishments
Mechanism for building technical
capacity to meet each
government’s needs
A community of practitioners
Country-specific reports, “lessons
learned” and table top exercises
emphasize the state of nuclear
forensic readiness
Essential for regional cooperation
and partnerships

Nuclear Forensics Project Development