As an expert in nuclear forensics, Iyer is part of a multidisciplinary group of scientists who swing into action whenever a radioactive object turns up in an unexpected location. During these so-called “interdictions”, nuclear forensic scientists work to identify what the object is, where it came from, who it belongs to and whether there might be more of it. This, Iyer acknowledges, is a tough job. “It’s a little rough and tumble out there,” she told attendees in her keynote address at the NuFor conference in Bristol, UK, last week. “We’ll know we’ve made it when we have a TV show called CSI: Nuclear Forensics. We’re not there yet.” The challenging nature of the field was evident throughout the conference, which took place on 10-11 July and was co-organized by the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), the Institute of Physics (which publishes Physics World) and the University of Bristol’s South West Nuclear Hub. The central premise of nuclear forensics is that differences in how and where radioactive materials are mined, processed, enriched and stored will leave tell-tale markers in the materials’ chemical and physical properties. In CSI terms, these markers play the role of fingerprints or DNA, providing clues to the material’s origins and helping law enforcement officials find out who’s been spreading it around.
Physics World 16th July 2019 read more »