Defense Threat Reduction AgencyDefense Threat Reduction Agency

Nuclear Detection and Forensics

Photo Nuclear Detection and Forensics Caption: The installation of sensors at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. gates is designed to detect and give early warning to an unconventional nuclear attack. (DTRA photo)
quoteToday, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black market trade in nuclear secrets and nuclear materials abound. The technology to build a bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered on a global non-proliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point where the center cannot hold.quote [ Speech delivered by President Barack Obama in Prague, Czech Republic, April, 2009 ]

A nuclear terrorist attack that devastates one of the great cities of the world is unthinkable. Yet, the report World at Risk, The Report of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism, released in 2008, tells us that the nuclear threat is growing.

The report also says that nuclear terrorism is preventable, but the world must act with urgency to prevent it.

Working to prevent the unthinkable – a nuclear or biological attack – is one of the priority missions of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).

To meet its combat support mission, DTRA delivers advanced detection technologies to support the combatant commands, services and other customers. Improvement to capabilities includes expanding the range of nuclear detection from several yards to stand-off distances in order to locate, track or interdict nuclear weapons and materials in the hands of adversaries.

DTRA has direct relationships with many interagency partners on nuclear detection, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration, in order to achieve a multi-layered defense strategy to protect the U.S. from nuclear or radiological attack.

DoD-specific missions often require mobile and transportable detection systems, some mounted on military vehicles, and employed in fluid and potentially hostile situations. DTRA addresses these challenges through advanced countering WMD technology development programs. A key objective is to provide the capability for locating and tracking nuclear weapons or nuclear materials at stand-off distances.

To create a fully integrated nuclear defense capability, the DoD not only partners with U.S. government agencies but also seeks international partnerships to build capacity in countering WMD. This includes maritime demonstrations of radiation detection, international partnerships in technology development for detection and forensics, and regional academic workshops on WMD technologies.