The event marks 25 Years Strengthening Nuclear Security.
The Nuclear Forensics International Technical Working Group (ITWG) held its 25th annual meeting, conducted as virtual meeting, on June 15-18, 2021.The event was attended by more than one hundred experts from 35 countries and highlighted the group’s notable contributions to international nuclear security over the past twenty-five years.
Established in 1995 when nuclear materials were being smuggled out of the former Soviet Union and into Europe, experts from the Group of Seven created the ITWG to develop and employ technical approaches to counter nuclear smuggling, primarily by strengthening cooperation between law enforcement investigators and scientific experts.
Each year the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) receives more than 100 confirmed reports of nuclear and other radioactive materials outside regulatory control (totaling to some 3600 incidents as of 31 Dec. 2020), including incidents involving smuggling and other illicit activities. To thwart terrorists and 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. 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.
Over the past twenty-five years, ITWG has held in addition to its annual meetings, 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 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 2021 meeting featured briefings by the IAEA and the GICNT, technical presentation by experts from across the globe and a panel discussion, reviewing the Group’s role and accomplishments. Among the prominent contributions identified by the panel was ITWG’s “Model Action Plan” initially formulated after the inception of the working group. This best practice described for the first time in an international document how investigators and scientific experts cooperate to safely exploit a crime scene involving nuclear or other radioactive material. This plan, like many others, emerged from the conduct of an ITWG exercise where experts share experiences and lessons learned. Outcomes from these exercises inform international guidelines, are regularly published in leading scientific journals, and raise the level of nuclear forensics practice across the international community.
In September 2021, ITWG will initiate its seventh collaborative materials exercise (CMX) comprising elements of radiological crime scene management and nuclear forensic laboratory analyses.
The ITWG is co-chaired by experts from the United States and European Commission. Klaus Mayer from the European Commission’s Joint Research Center in Karlsruhe, Germany, is one co-chair, and Michael Curry from the U.S. State Department, is the other.
- 22 Juni 2021