EU Science Hub

JRC supports Member States with nuclear forensics expertise

Apr 03 2014

Visualising latent fingerprints is common practice for police forensic laboratories in EU countries, but if the evidence is radioactively contaminated, the laboratory cannot process the fingerprints. The JRC has unique nuclear forensic capabilities which include methodologies for recovering fingerprints from contaminated surfaces. In order to support Member States’ authorities, the JRC provided access to these capabilities through a project consisting of several nuclear forensics exercises. This initiative is funded by the Commission's Directorate-General for Home Affairs, within the framework of the EU CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) Action Plan, which aims to mitigate these types of risks.

A concrete example is the joint exercise held by the JRC and the German authorities last week, which included advance notification, the transport of the evidence, maintenance of chain of custody, evidence management requirements, introduction of the relevant specimen in the controlled area (nuclear laboratories) at the JRC, their manipulation in a glove-box, the visualisation of fingerprints using the cyanoacrylate method and the documentation using digital microscopy. Quality control samples (provided by the German police forces) were processed along with the actual specimen, with specialists from the police forensic laboratory evaluating the fingerprints.

There was positive feedback about the constructive support, the technical quality of the investigation and the access to the JRC's capability of handling radioactively contaminated evidence which is not available through national forensic laboratories.

A first exercise had been conducted in 2013 with the Dutch authorities and covered the investigation of uranium which was intercepted from illicit trafficking.