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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 subject. Nuclear forensics is an activity that one gains access to through expertise in several areas

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opportunities and requirements for careers in nuclear forensics
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 subject
I have some pretty strong prejudices about this subject
  • 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 imagine
i ve been involved in this business for over twenty years
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
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
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 assessments
I now support forensics by program and policy assessments

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
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 scope
Nuclear Forensics may be ready for an expansion in scope

Nuclear disarmament may require a “Peace Surcharge!”

  • 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
let s start with the boundaries of the current program
Let’s start with the boundaries of the current program

One may have to cope with knowing only part of the puzzle

  • The customers are the law enforcement and intelligence communities
    • 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
the daubert decision governs the admissibility of technical evidence
The Daubert Decision governs the Admissibility of Technical Evidence
  • The technique must be well-established and broadly understood
    • 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
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 spoofed
  • 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 partners
where when and how do you learn this stuff
Where, When, and How do You Learn this Stuff?
  • Classical technical skills first!
    • Nuclear physics and chemistry, materials science, isotope geology
  • 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 last
    • 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
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
What would be an ideal forensics career path?
  • Do technical skills development and instrument development in academia
  • 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