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Integrating nuclear and conventional forensics

Answering key questions about the immediate history of the device or materials calls for traditional and modern forensic skills, such as fingerprinting, DNA profiling, and electronic and digital decoding, not to mention close coordination with law enforcement agencies and the intelligence services.

It is important that forensic scientists can carry out their work immediately, with as little interference from other investigators as possible. They only have what they call ‘a golden hour’ to collect the samples they need. After that time, traces degrade and it becomes increasingly difficult to find clear signs.

However, nuclear laboratories are generally unfamiliar with these forensic disciplines and have different concerns. In addition, they are mostly focused on nuclear materials, and less on radiological materials (such as used in hospitals and power stations). Traditional forensic departments, on the other hand, are generally inexperienced in dealing with radioactive materials of any type, and lack suitable facilities.

How can this discrepancy in approach and experience be resolved? Clearly a number of steps need to be taken.

Defining the tasks