The Euroscience Open Forum 2008 taking place in Barcelona, Spain, is covered in a short UPI story highlighting the Forum’s focus on nuclear forensics, which is the science specializing in nuclear threat detection.
Nuclear forensics cuts across the entire mission space from deterrence and dissuasion, to detection through consequence management, to attribution and response. It is a core part of the mission of combating smuggled nuclear weapons.
Speaking at the Eurpean Forum, Gabriele Tamborini of the European Commission Joint Research Center Institute for Transuranium Elements told UPI that the threat posed by nuclear terrorism has become a serious field of study.
“Nuclear forensics may provide information on the history, the intended use and possibly on the origin of nuclear material.”
“This scientific discipline is at the interface between physical science, prosecution, non-proliferation and counter-terrorism.”
For our part, the U.S. has formed the National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center (NTNFC) under the DNDO. It represents an important reorganization.
While the Department of Homeland Security is not responsible for the entire spectrum of nuclear forensics, the NTNFC is a step forward in two clearly needed capabilities:
1. Across the government, unify various competencies and programs that are focused on aspects of the forensics mission.
2. Develop, enhance, and maintain technical forensics capabilities for pre-event needs.
The FBI provides the Deputy Assistant Director at the NTNFC, and it also provides a senior liaison from the FBI lab. The Department of Defense and the Department of Energy both provide detailees.
The Forensics Center also has a Working Group, made up of members from each relevant federal agency and members of the intelligence community, which meets regularly. There is an “Interagency NTNF Program & Budget Crosscut” under development to help align relevant programs and harmonize budget requests. Lastly, the NTNFC – and the DNDO in general – work with interagency partners in planning and executing exercises that support the research, development, and deployment of technologies, as well as shared concepts of operations.