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Tracing the Origin of Diverted or Stolen Nuclear Material through Nuclear Forensic Investigations

  • Klaus Mayer
  • Maria Wallenius
  • Ian Ray

6 Conclusions

In the last fifteen years we have see the emergence of a new and potentially hazardous form of smuggling: that of nuclear and radioactive materials. This triggered the development of a new discipline in science, enabling to support law enforcement authorities in combating illicit trafficking and dealing with criminal environmental issues: nuclear forensics. Existing analytical techniques as used in material science, in nuclear material safeguards and in environmental analysis, were adapted to the specific needs of nuclear forensic investigations. Characteristic parameters (e.g. isotopic composition, chemical impurities, macro- and microstructure) can be combined to a “nuclear fingerprint”, pointing at the origin of the material. Further research is being carried out, aiming at identifying other useful material characteristics in order to reduce the ambiguities often remaining in the interpretation of the data and in the source attribution. New methodologies need to be developed, validated and implemented in order to determine parameters with good precision and accuracy. The availability of up-to-date reference on nuclear material is essential in order to identify the origin and the intended use of the material, or to exclude certain origins.

Significant progress has been achieved in a relatively short time in this new and fascinating discipline. Due to the nature of the material involved and the related handling problems, the specific adaptation of measurement instrumentation, the complexity of the data interpretation and the particular expertise required, only few laboratories are working in this area. However, the hazards involved with nuclear smuggling and the potential relation with nuclear terrorism are the driving forces for deploying and further improving this methodology.

Keywords

Isotopic Composition Inductively Couple Plasma Mass Spectrometry Nuclear Material Alpha Spectrometry Fuel Pellet 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Berlin · Heidelberg 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Klaus Mayer
    • 1
  • Maria Wallenius
    • 1
  • Ian Ray
    • 1
  1. 1.European Commission, Joint Research CentreInstitute for Transuranium ElementsKarlsruheGermany

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