Friday, June 4, 2010

FBI and Savannah River National Laboratory Put Science to Work to Protect the Nation

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Energy’s Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) today (June 3) announced the opening of a major expansion of the FBI’s facilities for the forensic examination of radiological material and associated evidence. The FBI’s newly expanded Radiological Evidence Examination Facility (REEF), located at the Savannah River National Laboratory near Aiken, South Carolina, provides a major enhancement in the FBI's ability to protect the nation from crimes involving radiological material and bring to justice those who would use these materials to harm the nation's citizens.

The first phase of the REEF opened at SRNL in 2006, providing facilities and equipment where trained FBI personnel can safely perform forensic examination on radiologically contaminated evidence. The new facility expands that original suite to about six times its original size and provides the capabilities for many more kinds of forensic examination. The new radiological forensic laboratory takes advantage of the long-standing security, safety and radiological protection capabilities already in place at SRNL while allowing the FBI to focus on forensic examination, in consultation with SRNL experts.

The expanded facility offers the FBI the ability to conduct the full spectrum of traditional forensic analysis on contaminated evidence. Working together, FBI and SRNL personnel have developed innovative solutions to adapt existing DNA, latent fingerprints, trace hairs and fiber, document exams, and forensic photography techniques for safe use in a radiation-controlled environment. For example, new microscope slide holders, as well as digital photography and x-ray capabilities have been developed. Digital fingerprint comparisons can now be conducted using secure computer terminals linked to the FBI’s national fingerprint database. The REEF includes a fully functional FBI satellite office, where forensic examiners can securely share information via voice, data, or video with any other FBI office. The facility has a dedicated evidence storage room, where radiological evidence can be safely and securely stored to maintain its integrity for judicial proceedings.

At the FBI Laboratory in Quantico Virginia, traditional forensic examinations of non-hazardous evidence are conducted in support of law enforcement investigations. The new FBI Laboratory facility at SRNL provides FBI forensic examiners with the ability to perform these examinations on radiologically contaminated evidence in a fully equipped, safe, secure forensic laboratory setting.

“We at SRNL are particularly proud of our partnership with the FBI, putting science to work to give the FBI the ability to conduct investigations that help keep our nation safe from nuclear terrorism,” says SRNL Acting Director Dr. Paul Deason. As host to the FBI’s radiological evidence laboratory, SRNL conducted several years of research and development to adapt existing FBI forensic methods for application to radiological evidence, using their expertise in the safe handling of radiological materials. This successful partnership is continuing; future developments already under way include the ability to use remote manipulators and “hot cells” to collect and analyze evidence from items containing sources of neutron or gamma radiation.

In addition, SRNL provides radiological crime scene training to FBI agents from around the country, and has developed special evidence packaging to allow investigators to collect and deliver radiological evidence to the laboratory.

SRNL is the Department of Energy’s applied research and development national laboratory at the Savannah River Site (SRS). SRNL puts science to work to support DOE and the nation in the areas of environmental management, national and homeland security, and energy security. The management and operating contractor for SRS and SRNL is Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC.

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