DNDO recognizes Lab researchers for first-ever nuclear forensics plan

July 26, 2011

Frank Wong (left) and Kristen Beahm (right) were awarded the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) Director's Team Award. DNDO Director Warren Stern (second from left) and DNDO Deputy Director Huban Gowadia (second from right) presented the award. (Download Image)

DNDO recognizes Lab researchers for first-ever nuclear forensics plan

Jeffrey C Morris, morris8@llnl.gov, 925-422-0176
Frank Wong of the Physical and Life Sciences Directorate's Condensed Matter and Materials Division and Kristen Beahm of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office's (DNDO) National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center (NTNFC) have been recognized for leading the development and coordination of the first-ever National Strategic Five-Year Plan for Improving the Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Capabilities of the United States.

Wong and Beahm received the U.S. Department of Homeland Security DNDO Director's Team Award in recognition of their accomplishment.

"It was a grand slam for the forensics community and for my office," wrote DNDO Assistant Director/NTNFC Director William Daitch.

Daitch wrote: "The National Strategic Plan was the first of its kind, cutting across multiple departments and some major mission areas that had never been corralled into one high-level plan, including nuclear forensics, attribution, NMIP (the Nuclear Materials Information Program), and NTRG (the Nuclear Trafficking Response Group)."

DNDO Director Warren Stern thanked Wong and Beahm for their "enormous" contribution.

Working closely with the White House National Security staff, Wong and Beahm led, facilitated, coordinated and integrated the plan with the support of the departments of Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, State, and Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Executive Office of the President.

In addition to their leadership and integration role, Wong and Beahm drafted much of the language in both the forensics and attribution sections of the plan, writing and revising through 19 rounds of interagency coordination from November 2009 to April 2010.

The plan is required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 and the 2010 Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act.

It describes the President's policy, analytical, budgetary investment priorities and activities planned during the next five years to support and improve the nuclear forensics and attribution capabilities of the United States.

On April 30, 2010, President Obama signed and submitted the plan to Congress. In his transmittal letter, he described nuclear forensics and attribution as a "vital national security priority." Wong explained that technical nuclear forensics (TNF) is the collection, analysis and evaluation of pre-detonation (intact) or post-detonation (exploded) radiological or nuclear (RN) materials, devices and debris, as well as the immediate effects created by a nuclear detonation.

"TNF is one of the three pillars that support attribution, which is the identification of those responsible for the planned or actual use of RN materials or weapons in criminal acts or acts that threaten national security," he said.

He added that the other two pillars are law enforcement investigation and intelligence information. "TNF interprets radiological signatures, or fingerprints, to identify the type of material, how the material could be used, and how the material was produced," Wong said.

"Samples are characterized and compared against known signature families of nuclear and radioactive materials from reactors, weapons and enrichment facilities, and from medical, academic, commercial and other facilities containing such materials throughout the world."