Jane VaynmanNuclear Forensics Team to the Rescue

If a nuclear bomb were to go off in a U.S. city, how long would it take to get info on what kind it was and where it came from?

Los Angeles Times had an article about nuclear forensics and government teams who are working on detection. I appreciate the attempt to make it sound cool…elite teams with radiation-detecting helicopters!

About every three days, unknown to most Americans, an elite team of federal scientists hits the streets in the fight against nuclear terrorism.

An independent study (led by Michael May at Stanford) on forensics and policy approaches should be out next month. Jay C. Davis, a retired weapons scientist working on the forensics study, gives some goals for a forensics time:

Davis said it was hoped that nuclear forensics could determine the size of a detonation within one hour; the sophistication of the bomb design within six hours; how the fuel was enriched within 72 hours; and the peculiar details of national design — “Does this look like a Russian, a Chinese or a Pakistani device, or something we have never seen before?” — within a week.

It’s a pretty good article with some interesting details on how detections teams would work after locating a nuclear device.

(Also, despite all my hopes, I have not in fact moved a tropical island without internet. I am just in grad school. Happy Hour deserves a break from the books however, so hope to see you at Big Hunt on Wednesday!)


  1. user_hostile (History)

    Dick Destiny seems to take more jaundice view of LA Times article. Care to comment, Jane?

  2. mark F (History)

    I like this article, with phrases such as “then quickly transfer the weapon to the Nevada Desert.”