Opportunities and Requirements for Careers in Nuclear

Opportunities and Requirements for
Careers in Nuclear Forensics
Jay Davis
The Hertz Foundation
ORAU Council
March 9, 2011
I have some pretty strong prejudices about this
• Nuclear forensics is an activity that one gains access to
through expertise in several areas
– Technologies that are relevant
– In qualifying for field operations
– Lots of the real action will not be in the laboratory
• Forensics requires mastering the rules and constraints of
multiple fields and organizations
– Acquisition of evidence and chain of custody
– The rules for admissibility of evidence
– Partnering with legal and intelligence personnel
• It just might be on the verge of becoming larger than you
I’ve been involved in this business for over
twenty years
After the First Gulf War, I had a role in finding and
assessing the Iraqi nuclear weapons Program
As a staff member at LLNL and as Director
of DTRA, I advocated a forensics program
A great lesson here is that if you can’t sell a program,
go to Washington and start one!
I even proposed and got built Accelerator Mass
Spectrometry Hardware for Forensics
AMS is insensitive to molecular isobaric interferences
(e.g., 236U vs. 235UH) which enables ultra-sensitive and
rapid measurement of long-lived radioisotopes:
• Instrumental backgrounds <105 atoms
• Isotope ratios as low as 10-17
• Measurement times are typically a few minutes.
I now support forensics by program and policy
The 2010 NAS Report
on Nuclear Forensics
The 2010 APS/POPA Report
on Nuclear Arms Control
The NAS Report made some clear recommendations
that were well received
• On-going support was required for training a new
generation of experts
• Renewal of equipment and facilities built for Cold War
purposes was necessary
• The permanent engagement of the academic
community was essential for long term success
• A continuous exercise program -- with rigorous
evaluation -- was needed to assure competence
Unfortunately, the full report was of necessity classified,
limiting its impact beyond the Washington Beltway
Nuclear Forensics may be ready for an expansion in
• We traditionally think of materials and debris
– Gamma spectroscopy and analysis
– Mass spectrometry and analysis
– Runs with weapons codes and searching data bases to help
solve the inverse problem
• We may need to think more broadly of
nuclear weapons inventory and destruction,
and fuel cycle monitoring
– Counting intact weapons and weapons components
– Monitoring materials stockpiles and disposition
– Inventorying the entire world fuel cycle comprehensively
Nuclear disarmament may require a “Peace Surcharge!”
Let’s start with the boundaries of the current
• The customers are the law enforcement and intelligence
– They are not habitual sharers of information
– However, their authorities are legally defined and established
• The analytical tools are those of nuclear chemistry and physics,
materials science, and isotope geochemistry
– Virtually all are inherently unclassified and are well peer-reviewed
– They meet the Daubert Criteria for admissibility in court – more on
this shortly
• The interpretive tools may be classified or restricted, such as
materials data bases or weapons design codes
– Access to and understanding of these will be limited
One may have to cope with knowing only part of the puzzle
The Daubert Decision governs the Admissibility of
Technical Evidence
• The technique must be well-established and broadly
– No magic new instruments just out of development!
• The technique must be peer-reviewed
• It’s preferable that there be more than one practitioner
and that round-robin tests are done against unknowns
• False positives and negatives must be well-known
– Thus fingerprints and DNA, but not lie detectors
• Even if one is not taking the material to Court (i.e., into
the Intelligence Community), the bulk of Government
decision makers are attorneys, hence the expectation is
that these criteria can be met
Bounding Conditions for Arms Control Forensics
• Safety and security of inspectors and equipment
• Protection of classified and proprietary information
– While assuring that hardware gives true answers and is not
• Protection of non-nuclear classified information
– Such as stealth, radar, sonar and command abilities
• Understanding how to add partner nations as the
treaties grow
• Figuring out the role of non-nuclear weapons states
Where, When, and How do You Learn this
• Classical technical skills first!
– Nuclear physics and chemistry, materials science, isotope
• Program relevant issues second
– What matters in the corporate world?
– What matters in past and upcoming treaties
• Figure out how to join the restricted or classified world
– Can you bring a skill or tool they do not have?
– Does anyone actually have a threat analysis?
– Are economics driving bad security decisions?
This looks like another hard decade-long slog
Who would support you?
• The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office of DHS is tasked to develop
and implement the “National Nuclear Forensics Expertise
Development Program”
– The joint DNDO/NSF Academic Research Initiative has awarded 49
grants to 40 institutions since 2007
– $58M has been made available
– The program spans undergraduate to junior faculty awards and stresses
university-industrial-laboratory collaboration
• The national labs support both nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear
weapons expertise
– And conduct a variety of summer internship programs and training
• DTRA issues Broad Area Announcements in support of explicit
instrumentation development for forensics and general research
What would be an ideal forensics career path?
• Do technical skills development and instrument development in
• Do device development and interpretation and assessment in the
programmatic entities, national labs and occasionally agencies
• Demonstrate expertise in refereed unclassified work
• Enter the classified program as either an employee or a
consultant -- and the classified world needs to pull you in!
• Participate in red team activities, exercises against the clock, and
external reviews
• Participate in policy reviews when you are (like me) too old to
make a technical or operational contribution
At the end of the day, nuclear forensics is an activity,
not a career -- but it needs broad participation

similar documents