Nuclear Forensics: Comprehensive Interagency Plan Needed to Address Human Capital Issues Metadata

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  • Main Title Nuclear Forensics: Comprehensive Interagency Plan Needed to Address Human Capital Issues


  • Author: United States. Government Accountability Office.
    Creator Type: Organization


  • Name: United States. Government Accountability Office.
    Place of Publication: Washington D.C.


  • Creation: 2009-04-30


  • English


  • Content Description: Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The detonation of a nuclear weapon or radiological dispersal device (RDD) in the United States or elsewhere would cause decision makers to immediately demand information on the nature of the device--including its design, the materials used to build it, and the materials' source--as well as the identification of the perpetrators. Technical nuclear forensics--the analysis of nuclear or radiological materials that are intercepted or the radioactive debris and prompt output signals (such as gamma rays) produced by a nuclear event--can contribute to the identification of the sources of these materials and the processes used to create them. Analytical techniques developed to determine the nature of nuclear tests can be used if terrorists were to detonate a nuclear device or RDD and radioactive debris samples were recovered (known as "postdetonation" nuclear forensics). Nuclear forensic techniques also could potentially be used to determine the origin of nuclear or radiological materials or devices seized prior to their use in a weapon (known as "predetonation" nuclear forensics). The U.S. government's predetonation nuclear forensics capabilities have been demonstrated in investigations on seized nuclear material from illicit smuggling operations. In addition, it is important to note that nuclear forensics represents a key piece of the overall effort to identify specific perpetrators of a nuclear event, in a process known as attribution. The combination of nuclear forensics conclusions, law enforcement findings (e.g., traditional forensics, such as fingerprint analysis), and intelligence information can be used to attribute an event to specific perpetrators. The departments of Defense (DOD), Energy (DOE), Homeland Security (DHS), and State (State), as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the intelligence community, would play key roles in a nuclear forensics investigation. The specific roles these agencies would play were established in August 2007 through a presidential decision directive. This directive also formally established the National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center (NTNFC) within DHS's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office to coordinate planning, integration, assessment, and stewardship of the U.S. government's nuclear forensics capabilities. NTNFC has chartered a number of interagency groups to guide policy making for the National Technical Nuclear Forensics (NTNF) program and has led the development of key interagency documents such as the NTNF strategic plan. In this context, Congress asked GAO to assess the (1) challenges the U.S. government faces in developing and maintaining a comprehensive nuclear forensics capability and (2) current and future costs associated with the U.S. government's nuclear forensics efforts."


  • Library of Congress Subject Headings: Government accountability -- United States.
  • Keyword: homeland security
  • Keyword: human capital
  • Keyword: nuclear forensics
  • Keyword: correspondence


  • Place Name: United States


  • Name: Government Accountability Office Reports
    Code: GAORT


  • Name: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
    Code: UNTGD


  • Rights License: pd

Resource Type

  • Text


  • Text


  • Report No.: GAO-09-527R
  • Accession or Local Control No: 96089
  • URL:
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc296634