House Approves Schiff's Legislation to "Fingerprint" Nuclear Material

Official Seal of the US House of Representatives

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 Contact: Sean Oblack (202) 225-4176

House Approves Schiff’s Legislation to “Fingerprint” Nuclear Material

Legislation will improve technology to track down nuclear traffickers and identify sources of nuclear material

Washington, DC – Today, the House passed Rep. Adam Schiff’s Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act (H.R. 730). The legislation will strengthen efforts in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop techniques for “fingerprinting” nuclear material, and will also encourage the President to negotiate international agreements to govern international nuclear forensics activities.

“If we can determine the source of nuclear material, we can better attack smuggling networks and plug the security holes that allow deadly material to be obtained in the first place,” said Schiff. “Nuclear states like North Korea may be deterred from transferring nuclear material if they know it can be traced back to them.”

In the event of nuclear material being intercepted at a border crossing or in a sting operation, there may be few clues to assist investigators in determining where the bomb or material originated. The radioactive material itself may be the only lead. Each sample of nuclear material has an elemental fingerprint that can help determine its source. However, current efforts to trace materials are often incomplete because the technology is still in development and information on foreign reactors and stockpiles is not available.

The Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act will authorize the National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center at DHS to coordinate the government’s nuclear forensics efforts and encourage technicians and scientists to enter the field. It will also call upon the President to lead international efforts to share nuclear forensics data.

Congressman Schiff has been a leading voice in Congress on securing vulnerable stockpiles of weapons materials. Last year, Rep. Schiff co-founded the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Nuclear Security, which seeks to identify the most urgent vulnerabilities and take immediate action to improve nuclear safeguards, secure fissile materials, and prevent the misuse of sensitive nuclear materials and technologies.

In the last Congress, Congressman Schiff introduced several bipartisan bills which would reduce the threat of a nuclear disaster. He introduced legislation that would prevent nations that violate and then withdraw from the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) from keeping nuclear materials or technology obtained through the treaty.

Rep. Schiff is a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Appropriations Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. He represents California’s 29th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Alhambra, Altadena, Burbank, Glendale, Monterey Park, Pasadena, San Gabriel, South Pasadena and Temple City.