The emergence of nuclear forensic science in Israel

Eyal Elish, Analytical Chemistry, Nuclear Research Center Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel (

The Israeli National Nuclear Forensics Laboratory (INNFL) was established in 2011, as part of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) contribution to the national response plan to cope with nuclear and radiological terrorism. The role of the INNFL is to assist law enforcement authorities in investigating illicit trafficking of radioactive materials and help bring the perpetrators to trial.

The INNFL is based on cooperation between the IAEC nuclear research centers (Soreq Nuclear Research Center (SNRC) and Nuclear Research Center Negev (NRCN)), and the operational government bodies responsible for investigating and handling such events – the Israel Police and the IAEC first responder's unit. This cooperation relies on the complementary experiences of the Israel Police (handling forensic investigations) and of the nuclear laboratories (investigating radioactive materials).

The INNFL is involved in the different scientific fields required for building nuclear forensics capacities: radiological measurements, radiography, analytical chemistry, particle analysis, mass spectrometry and operational issues.

The nuclear forensics capabilities of the INNFL are supported by scientific research conducted continuously on a variety of topics, mostly focused on different methods of attribution relying on the specific expertise of the two research centers.

The nuclear forensics capabilities can be divided to two different categories. The first category is the examination of radioactive and nuclear materials. Recent investigations involving such capabilities were conducted following discoveries of shipments with an Am/Be neutron source in Ashdod Port and a Ra/Be neutron source in Haifa Port. The second category is the classical forensic examination of radioactively contaminated evidence, such as fingerprints and DNA.

The INNFL team is taking part in international organizations and activities intended to promote cooperation, technical capabilities and worldwide nuclear security, such as the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) and the Nuclear Forensics International Technical Working Group (ITWG).

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