H.R. 730: Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act

H.R. 730

Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act

Sponsor
Rep. Adam B. Schiff

Date
March 24, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

H.R. 730 is being considered on the floor under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. This legislation was introduced by Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) on January 27, 2009.

Bill Summary

H.R. 730 expresses the sense of Congress that the President should pursue international agreements determining the source of confiscated nuclear material and share information between nations and the public.

The bill also enumerates certain responsibilities for the Secretary of Homeland Security. These responsibilities include developing and implementing capabilities to support the attribution of nuclear or radiological material to its source. H.R. 730 also directs the Secretary to improve and integrate national nuclear forensics capabilities, as well as to foster the development and maintenance of radiochemistry expertise and other programs to support a robust nuclear forensics workforce.

H.R. 730 establishes a National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center, within the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), to provide planning, assessment, exercises, improvement, and integration of all Federal nuclear forensics activities.

This legislation includes a provision establishing a National Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development Program, which would provide scholarships and fellowships for those pursuing careers in technical nuclear forensics. The bill mandates a two-year commitment of service within the federal technical nuclear forensics workforce after graduation for fellows of the scholarship program.

H.R. 730 authorizes appropriations of $30 million for each of Fiscal Years 2009, 2010, and 2011.

 

Background

This legislation is similar to H.R. 2631, which passed the House by voice vote on June 18, 2008.  The Senate passed that bill with an amendment, but the House did not consider the amended bill.

Nuclear forensics is the scientific method for identifying the source of nuclear material. Typically, nuclear specialists use a unique "isotopic signature" found in radioactive material much like a fingerprint to track down the origin of the nuclear matter.  Technical nuclear forensics is a critical component of attribution.  A robust attribution program may deter states from aiding terrorists' efforts to carry out nuclear terrorism.  However, the workforce in the technical fields of nuclear forensics has been deteriorating in recent decades.  This bill seeks to reinvigorate the workforce pipeline to guarantee the nation a resource of technical experts in this critical field, and strengthen America's attribution capabilities.

The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) was established within DHS in 2005.  The Office's mission is currently to improve the Nation's capability to detect and report unauthorized attempts to import, possess, store, develop, or transport nuclear or radiological material for use against the United States.

 

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet produced a cost estimate for this bill. However, a similar bill from the 110th Congress was estimated to cost $90 million over the 2009-2013 period, subject to appropriation of the authorized amounts.