PNNL Hosting an International Nuclear Forensics Workshop
Nuclear scientists from around the world are spending this week in Richland at Pacific Northwest National lab's HAMMER training facility in Richland.
Nuclear scientists and law enforement are placed into a simulated scenario when a portal monitor alarm has detected nuclear materials in a car that has driven through a country's port of entry.
Participants are learning how to properly handle this situation during a two week international workshop on nuclear forensics being conducted by the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration
Bouchefer Mahrez of Algeria said this training is important for the safety of his country.
"Near my country we have Niger, one of the first countries in the world who produces uranium nitrate, so it can be for example you can transit through my country to make smuggling illicit trafficking," said Mahrez.
Tranees learn via these scenarios that if the person tranporting the nuclear material does not have proper licensing, the first step to determining if they are smugglers is setting up a radiological crime scene.
In the next step, using a technology called 3D radiography, participants must take X-ray images of the material to make sure there are no booby traps.
Then, scientists and law enforement collect evidence and take it back to the lab to measure gamma and alpha radiation levels.
George Janda is a scientist and a member of the military in the Czech Republic and has dealt with similar scenarios before but he said with this training, he's better prepared.
"We are searching for a new opporuntiy, a new overlook of the forensics analysis because we are trying to introduce these topics into the Czech army, we are trying to modify all procedures and trying to be more forensic," said Janda.
In all, 26 particpants from 10 different countries, are taking part.
This is the second time PNNL has hosted this workshop for what it believes is a very good reason.
"Some countries have very advanced capabilties of nuclear forensic anaylsis, other countries don't have any," said Jon Schwantes of PNNL. "I think that's really the focus of this kind of workshop is those countries that are just now beginning to develop that capability."