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Nuclear Forensics: Role, State of the Art, Program Needs


Nuclear Weapons Technologies

This report was produced by a joint Working Group (WG) of the American Physical Society’s (APS) Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy. The primary purpose of this report is to provide the Congress, U.S. government agencies and other institutions involved in nuclear forensics with a clear unclassified statement of the state of the art of nuclear forensics; an assessment of its potential for preventing and identifying unattributed nuclear attacks; and  identification of the policies, resources, and human talent to fulfill that potential. The working group formally met twice, once in Washington, D.C., and once in Palo Alto, California, to hear  presentations from staff of the DOE/NNSA, the DHS, the DOS, the DTRA, and Congress. The  sessions were unclassified, although several members of the working group have access to  classified material. The working group’s approach was to first learn about the status of nuclear  forensics from active participants in the nuclear forensic program and then use what it learned,  along with the group’s collective experience, to judge the credibility and value of various options. All of the group’s members have been involved in the technical work, management, or review of nuclear weapons and/or forensics activities, most for several decades. Some are still working with the NNSA or the weapons laboratories in consultant roles, and some are part of other review mechanisms. The working group’s focus has been to examine the status and needs of the U.S. nuclear forensics effort. The working group dealt only with nuclear weapons, deciding that “dirty bombs” or radiological dispersal devices, are beyond the scope of its effort.