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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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RESTORING AND IMPROVING

Nuclear Forensics to Support
Attribution and Deterrence

PUBLIC SUMMARY

Committee on Enhancing U.S. Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Support Capabilities

Committee on International Security and Arms Control

Policy and Global Affairs

A Consensus Study Report of

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, DC
www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001

This activity was supported by Contract No. DE-EP0000026/89233118FNA400124 between the National Academy of Sciences and the Department of Energy. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the view of the organizations or agencies that provided support for this project.

International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-27333-6
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-27333-1
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/26167

This publication is available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu.

Copyright 2021 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26167.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
×

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The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Marcia McNutt is president.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to bring the practices of engineering to advising the nation. Members are elected by their peers for extraordinary contributions to engineering. Dr. John L. Anderson is president.

The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) was established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to advise the nation on medical and health issues. Members are elected by their peers for distinguished contributions to medicine and health. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president.

The three Academies work together as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The National Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering, and medicine.

Learn more about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine at www.nationalacademies.org.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
×

Image

Consensus Study Reports published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine document the evidence-based consensus on the study’s statement of task by an authoring committee of experts. Reports typically include findings, conclusions, and recommendations based on information gathered by the committee and the committee’s deliberations. Each report has been subjected to a rigorous and independent peer-review process and it represents the position of the National Academies on the statement of task.

Proceedings published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine chronicle the presentations and discussions at a workshop, symposium, or other event convened by the National Academies. The statements and opinions contained in proceedings are those of the participants and are not endorsed by other participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies.

For information about other products and activities of the National Academies, please visit www.nationalacademies.org/about/whatwedo.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
×

COMMITTEE ON ENHANCING U.S. NUCLEAR FORENSICS AND ATTRIBUTION SUPPORT CAPABILITIES

Robert Rosner, Chair, William E. Wrather Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago

Marvin L. Adams, HTRI Professor of Nuclear Engineering and Director of the Institute for National Security Education and Research, Texas A&M University, College Station

Sue B. Clark, Regents Professor of Chemistry, Washington State University; and Battelle Fellow, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Donald L. Cook, Former Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs, National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Energy

Donald J. DePaolo, Graduate Professor of Geochemistry and Senior Faculty Scientist, University of California, Berkeley

Michael Dunning, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (retired)

Steve Fetter, Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, University of Maryland

Benjamin C. Garrett, Retired, Consultant, Argonne National Laboratory

Laura S. Holgate, Vice President for Materials Risk Management, Nuclear Threat Initiative

William Jeffrey, CEO, SRI International

Jenifer Shafer (until September 10, 2020), Associate Professor, Colorado School of Mines

Study Staff

Benjamin Rusek, Study Director

Jennifer Heimberg, Senior Program Officer

Marie C. Kirkegaard, Program Officer

Micah Lowenthal, Senior Program Director

Hope Hare, Administrative Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF REVIEWERS

This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.

We thank the following individuals for their review of this report:

Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Alton Romig, executive officer of the National Academy of Engineering. He was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Preface

It has been the committee members’ collective experience that studies of this kind are fairly straightforward: the object of study is well defined and the charge tasks can be readily executed. However, this has not been our experience in executing this charge.

Early in our fact-gathering stage, we discerned that the actual organization of the federal nuclear forensics program did not correspond to what the available documentation had led us to expect. It became evident that the nuclear forensics program was undergoing a significant unplanned reorganization because leaders of some components of the previous nuclear forensics organizational structure had disengaged their agencies from active participation and funding, and that an effort to put in place a new organizational structure for the national nuclear forensics program was under way. While this study report was in review, a new National Security Presidential Memorandum on nuclear forensics (NSPM-35) was signed by the President on January 19, 2021. The committee is gratified to see that many of the steps that the committee recommends in the study report are included in the NSPM and its Implementation Plan. Some of the committee's findings and recommendations focus on addressing those issues, and are included to warn against the lapses that led to the observed need for remediation. Furthermore, the committee makes many recommendations that are not in the federal reports or plans.

Chapter 1 of the 2010 National Academies assessment of U.S. nuclear forensics capability, to which this study compared the current state of affairs, begins by proposing a hypothetical scenario (NAS, 2010, p. 14):

The sleepy morning haze in Dallas, or Atlanta, or Chicago, or New York, or Los Angeles is ripped apart by the blinding flash, the sudden shockwave, and the expanding fireball from a nuclear explosion in the heart of the city. Minutes later, the President of the United States, entrusted with the responsibility to protect and defend the nation, is seeking answers to several questions. What was it? How bad is the damage, and how much worse will it get? Who did it? Did they have help? Where did it come from? Was it ours? Are there more? And finally, what should we do about it?

The discipline of nuclear forensics plays a key role in answering these questions. This study’s findings and recommendations detail ways to improve U.S. nuclear forensics capabilities that help deter a nuclear device from being used against the United States or its allies and determine who is responsible if one is found or used. They outline a national strategy to ensure that nuclear forensics capability is given high priority and that improvements are sustained over the long term.

For the national strategy to be successful, the President and leaders charged with nuclear forensics must take action. There is no substitute for top-level leadership and for ensuring that departments and agencies fulfill their designated and even legislated responsibilities. With leadership that fosters initiative and invention to meet challenges and fulfill the mission, the program will not only make better progress toward its goals, but it will also provide the excitement that we see in active successful programs, rather than only a concern about how to preserve minimum functionality. Failure to stop an unclaimed nuclear attack or prevent additional attacks would cause

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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unprecedented harm to the United States. The nation deserves and needs a stronger deterrent against such attacks and the ability to attribute an attack in the event that deterrence fails. The nation deserves and needs stronger and more dedicated support for nuclear forensics.

Robert Rosner, Chair
Committee on Enhancing U.S. Nuclear Forensics
and Attribution Support Capabilities

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Acknowledgments

This report could not have been completed without the cooperation of the many present and former federal agency staff members who have played central roles in building and maintaining U.S. nuclear forensics capabilities, as well as the staff members of the Air Force Technical Applications Center, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Energy national laboratories charged with executing the operations and research and development at the heart of the U.S. nuclear forensics program. Randy Weidman, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s point of contact for the project, was especially helpful.

While we were fortunate that our committee’s investigation and interviews were largely complete by February 2020, the severe restrictions on travel and facility access due to the COVID-19 pandemic did substantially delay our ability to finish the study. Simply put, this report could not have been completed were it not for the hard work, dedication, and expertise of this committee’s National Academies staff, Benjamin Rusek, Jennifer Heimberg, Micah Lowenthal, Marie Kirkegaard, and Hope Hare, who persevered despite these difficulties.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Page xiii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence: Public Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26167.
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Nuclear forensics is the analysis of nuclear materials, devices, emissions, and signals to determine the origin and history of those nuclear materials and devices. At the request of the Secretary of Energy, and in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security, Restoring and Improving Nuclear Forensics to Support Attribution and Deterrence evaluates the U.S. government's nuclear forensics capabilities. A 2010 National Academies report, Nuclear Forensics: A Capability at Risk, characterized the precarious state of the national technical nuclear forensics (NTNF) program at that time: NTNF relied almost entirely on staff dedicated to and residual funding from other related programs. This summary report addresses the current state of U.S. NTNF capabilities relative to the National Academies evaluation in 2010 and recommends ways to improve the NTNF program through improvements in policy, operations, and research and development efforts.

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