Nuclear Forensics - Role, State of the Art, Program Needs
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 WG formally met twice, once in Washington, D.C., and once in Palo Alto, California, to hear presentations from staff of the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and Congress. The sessions were unclassified, although several members of the WG have access to classified material.
The WG took the approach of first learning about the status of nuclear forensics from the active participants in the program and then using its collective experience to judge the credibility and value of various options. All members of the group 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. As a group, the WG’s collective focus has been to examine the status and needs of the U.S. nuclear forensics effort.
A related topic, namely “dirty bombs” or radiological dispersal devices, is generally beyond the scope of this effort.
The interpretations and conclusions contained in this report are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the APS Executive Board, the AAAS Board of Directors, the APS and AAAS Councils and memberships, or the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
About APS & POPA
The American Physical Society was founded in 1899, with a mission of advancing and diffusing the knowledge of physics. APS is now the nation’s leading organization of research physicists with more than 50,000 members in academia, national laboratories, and industry.
This paper was overseen by the APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA). POPA occasionally produces reports on topics currently debated in government in order to inform the debate with the perspectives of physicists working in the relevant issue areas. Indeed, APS has long played an active role in federal government with its members serving in Congress and having held positions such as Science Advisor to the President of the United States, Director of the CIA, and Director of the NSF.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. AAAS was founded in 1848 and serves some 265 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The nonprofit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, the premier science-news Web site and a service of AAAS.
Nuclear Forensics Working Group
Michael May, Chair
Philip E. Coyle
Ian D. Hutcheon