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  • In Cooperation with our University Partners

    Radiochemistry Webinars

    Nuclear Forensics Series

    Source & Route Attribution

  • Meet the Presenter Dr. Jenifer Braley


    Dr. Braley joined the faculty at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) in the fall of 2012 after two years at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. During her undergraduate research, she studied the solid-state synthesis of f-block

    elements at Colorado State University with Professor (and now 2017 ACS President-Elect) Peter Dorhout. In 2006 she worked with In 2006 she joined the group of Professor Ken Nash at Washington State University . Here she examined the fundamental solution chemistry of the f-elements relevant to solid-liquid and liquid-liquid separations

    chemistry. While in graduate school, she was able complete an internship at Eichrom Technologies with Dr. Phil Horwitz and bolstered her understanding of extraction chromatographic (solid-liquid) separations. She has joined the faculty at Colorado School of Mines to educate students on the fundamental and applied concerns of nuclear chemistry and radiochemistry (including the nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear forensics, and radioisotope production). As a member of the Nuclear Engineering Program at Mines, she actively engages the U.S. Geological Survey 1 MW TRIGA Nuclear Reactor at the Denver Federal Center to accomplish research and educational goals. Phone: 303-273-3996


  • Source & Route Attribution

    Professor Jenifer C. Braley Colorado School of Mines

    National Analytical Management Program (NAMP)

    U.S. Department of Energy Carlsbad Field Office


  • Understand attribution

    Techniques for source and route assessment

    General aspects of nuclear forensic analysis

    Laboratory process for source assessment

    Laboratory process for route assessment

    Prioritization of forensic tools

    Analytical techniques

    Learning Objectives


  • Forensic Analyses


  • Attribution Goals


    Allows law enforcement to understand illicit nuclear materials trafficking early Prevent development, deployment or exploding a nuclear weapon or

    radiological device Important to seriously assess cases that may not seem serious may lead to a

    bigger case Small material quantities or low enriched material

    Conclusions from technical nuclear forensic analysis are separate from attribution

  • Attribution Process


    Begins with nuclear forensic analysis Holistic assessment of situation where material was interdicted Container, packaging, transport vehicle

    Best to consider source and route attribution separately

    Source Attribution: Assesses origin and intended use. Based on investigation of nuclear material itself. Route Attribution: History of material once it was diverted. Based on

    investigation of affiliated non-nuclear material.

  • Source Attribution Questions


    Where did the materials originate?

    What are the materials (SNM, Weapons Grade,


    Were the materials diverted from a legitimate


    Where were the materials obtained?

    Where was legitimate custody lost?

    What is the potential for more illicit material from

    this source?

  • Route Attribution Questions


    Are the characteristics of the route unique?

    What was the route taken by the interdicted


    Was this an isolated event, or one in a series of


    Who are the perpetrators?

    What is the potential end-use (e.g., nation-state weapons program, subnational terrorist group,

    organized crime, etc.)?

  • Forensic Analysis First steps


    Measure / interpret data accurately and in a timely manner

    Begins with detection of the incident and an onsite evaluation Safety and security must be given top priority

    Unique Challenge: handling potentially large quantities of radioactivity while preserving trace quantities of nonnuclear materials

  • Forensic Analysis Sample transport


    Need to get materials to a facility capable of handling radioactive materials and preserving forensic evidence

    Prescreening accomplished onsite will help narrow the type of analyses required and, ultimately, the appropriate laboratory facilities

    The value of a particular technique is related to its

    utility in answering the various attribution questions

  • Forensic Analysis A tiered approach


    Approach is structured to ensure that each successive level of study is based on previously acquired results.

    Allows the interrogation process to be halted as soon as sufficient data have been acquired to meet the requesting agencys (e.g., law enforcement or intelligence) needs

    Routine NDA

    Highly specific

  • Forensic Analysis Stage 1


    Get samples into chain-of-custody and photo-document

    Non-destructive analysis (NDA) provides bulk chemical composition and radiological nature x-ray fluorescence and -particle, -ray, and neutron spectroscopy Perhaps solid-phase microextraction, followed by gas

    chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS)

    Stage 1 conclusions: semiquantitative, bulk-chemical composition, an estimate of the abundances of major radioactive species, a preliminary assay of organic compounds, and a detailed photographic representation.

  • Forensic Analysis Stage 2 - Microscopy


    Optical microscopy down to roughly 510 m

    Search for and remove adhering particles, fibers, and hair


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