With the right mobile equipment, nuclear detectives could sift through the debris and the radioactive cloud of an attack in this country or elsewhere and quickly glean crucial information, the scientists argued in a 60-page report discussed Feb. 16 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston.
The report, Nuclear Forensics: Role, State of the Art, Program Needs, was written by a joint working group of the AAAS and the American Physical Society.
Using radiochemistry techniques and access to proposed international databases that include actual samples of uranium and plutonium from around the world, the nuclear investigators might be able to tell the president – and the world – where the bomb fuel came from, or at least rule out some suspects.
“Nuclear forensics can make a difference,” May said in an interview.
Fascinating stuff. Nuclear forensics was a key part of The Sum Of All Fears (the book, anyway, I’m trying to forget the film) but, the scientists assert, that sort of expertise has disappeared since the end of the Cold War. More here.