International Nuclear Forensics Group Examines Nuclear Security Challenges

behind-the-scenes work, Marks also co-created a presentation with an AWE colleague.

Marks is the co-chair of the ITWG Nuclear Forensics Laboratories (INFL), an affiliate of the ITWG that exists to advance the measurement science of nuclear forensics for attributing nuclear and radiological material.

The INFL is distinct from the standing task groups, with the aim of focusing on the technical development and application of nuclear forensics while the ITWG, at its plenary meetings, provides the forum for end users and policy makers to engage with scientists regarding the application of nuclear forensics.

Mike Kristo, group leader for LLNL’s Chemical and Isotopic Signatures Group in Nuclear and Chemical Sciences, is the co-chair of the guidelines task group, which oversees the development and adoption of consensus-driven best practices guideline documents.

During the June ITWG meeting, Kristo gave an overview of the forthcoming guidelines, in particular highlighting a guideline aimed at communicating confidence in findings from a nuclear forensic examination.

Ruth Kips, deputy group leader for the Chemical and Isotopic Signatures Group in Nuclear and Chemical Sciences, co-authored a presentation with colleagues from the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Almaty, Kazakhstan as well as the Laboratory for Microparticle Analysis, Moscow, Russian Federation.

The ITWG is a multinational, informal association of official practitioners of nuclear forensics – scientists, law enforcement personnel and regulatory officials – who share a common task in responding to nuclear security events involving nuclear or other radioactive materials out of regulatory control.

Each year the IAEA receives more than 100 confirmed reports of nuclear and other radioactive materials outside regulatory control to include incidents involving smuggling and other illicit activities. To thwart terrorists and deter others from the malicious use of these materials, nuclear forensics is a critical investigative and prosecutorial tool, crucial to nuclear security.

 Due to the evolving nature of the threat, the work of the ITWG continues to prepare states to prevent, deter and respond to serious incidents involving these materials.

In addition to its annual meetings, the ITWG has held a range of exercises that have helped identify, develop and socialize best practices in the field of nuclear forensics. More than 300 experts from nearly 60 countries have participated in the ITWG activities.

Their collective work helps strengthen the ability of governments to hold perpetrators accountable for the unauthorized use of nuclear and other radioactive material. The ITWG works closely with the IAEA and Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), and its guidance and results have been featured at the IAEA International Conferences on Nuclear Security in 2016 and 2020 as well as the preceding Nuclear Security Summits.

LLNL says that in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the ITWG, the 2022 ITWG meeting will be hosted by LLNL, where the organization was established in 1995.