AFP Puts Nuclear Forensics in the Spotlight

(LAWFUEL) – The Australian Federal Police (AFP) will play a significant role in the Australasian Radiation Protection Society’s (ARPS) annual conference being held in Canberra this week.

For the first time in society’s 33 year conference history, the AFP’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Data Centre (CBRNDC) has been instrumental in having a nuclear forensics session tomorrow (24 September) as part of the four-day program.

The AFP’s Dr George Koperski said nuclear forensics has become increasingly important amid world concern about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

“As a scientific discipline, nuclear forensics can assist law enforcement agencies around the world in the fight against the illicit trafficking of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials which may be used by terrorists in ‘dirty bombs’ or for other criminal purposes,” he said.

Dr Koperski, a radiological expert at the CBRNDC, said nuclear forensics is able to identify a characteristic ‘signature’ of radioactive material linking it to its source.

“A miniscule quantity of oxygen in any given material can be linked back to its place of origin and a tiny trace of yellowcake can be linked back to the mine from which the ore originally came providing the combination of chemicals in the material can be matched to a ‘signature’ in the database.”

He said nuclear forensic analysis aimed to provide law enforcement agencies with legally admissible evidence that could result in the prosecution of offenders involved with trafficking illicit radioactive materials.

“Fortunately there have been no reported cases of the malicious use of radioactive material in Australia, but there have been a number of investigations overseas. This is includes a case of a highly enriched uranium sample seized in Bulgaria in 1999, and the analysis of radioactive material found during a raid of a clandestine drug lab in the USA,” he said.

The AFP has sponsored two keynote conference speakers; David K Smith, a senior Nuclear Forensics Advisor from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in the USA, and Dr Peter Gies, from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). Dr Gies will give the keynote presentation on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection.

About the AFP Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear
Data Centre (CBRNDC)
The CBRNDC was established on 2 July 2007 and is part of the AFP’s Forensic and Data Centres group.
The CBRNDC is responsible for collating technical information and intelligence relating to the criminal use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear material.
CBRNDC’s mission is to enhance Australia’s capability to prevent, prepare and respond to malicious use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents. It does this by providing technical intelligence products and services in order to support law enforcement and national security objectives.
The CBRNDC has strategic relationships with authorities in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

About the AFP Forensic and Data Centres (Formerly Forensic and Technical) group
Since 1989, the group has grown from modest beginnings to a multi-site, multi-discipline group under the guidance of National Manager Forensic and Data Centres, Dr James Robertson.
AFP Forensic and Data Centres includes forensic operations, the Australian Bomb Data Centre (ABDC), the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Data Centre (CBRNDC) and Forensic Drug Support, soon to become Australian Illicit Drug Data Centre (AIDDC).
With approximately 260 staff, the F&DC group covers almost all aspects of forensic science and technical information. It has a strong research and development interest and has formed strategic partnerships in Australia and overseas.

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