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IAEA and UNICRI to Boost Collaboration in Preventing and Countering Criminal Activities with Nuclear Science and Technology

Vienna -


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) today signed an agreement that will increase collaboration in preventing and countering criminal activities around the world using nuclear science and technology.

Nuclear techniques in forensics are used to characterise the origin and history of products and materials - such as art, food or nuclear and other radioactive materials - subject to counterfeiting, or illicit trafficking. Such nuclear techniques help the work of police investigators, courts and customs officials to solve crimes, detect fraud, catch food adulteration and identify forgeries.

“While criminals might want to cover their tracks, atoms do not lie,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. “Through this important collaboration, we will use our efforts to identify common approaches, projects, funds and partners, and ensure that newly developed technologies address the actual needs of our beneficiaries such as police officers, prosecutors, producers, exporters, industries, and consumers.”

The work of the IAEA and UNICRI is complementary: UNICRI assesses criminal activities, identifies trends and strengthens crime prevention and criminal justice, the IAEA develops and delivers innovative nuclear analytical tools and related frameworks, in support to Member States’ needs.

The IAEA and UNICRI capacity building plan will enable the transfer of technologies to promote the application of nuclear science and technology for forensic science, and to develop tools for the forensic and law enforcement community. One example of the future collaboration is the development of nuclear analytical tools for investigating and prosecuting different forms of illicit trade. Working closely with forensic experts and end users, such tools will help identify fraudulent products which counterfeiters intend to pass-off as originals such as trafficked works of art and cultural property.

“Today we are taking a decisive step forward to ensure that technologies and tools are designed, developed and validated together with their end-users, the forensic and law enforcement community,” said Antonia Marie De Meo, Director of UNICRI.  “This important partnership between UNICRI and IAEA bridges the gap between scientists and the law enforcement and forensic community and is especially timely since criminals are extremely innovative in exploiting technological advances.”

IAEA and UNICRI activities in crime prevention and control

The IAEA supports the development and application of novel nuclear techniques for analytical purposes. Thanks to its worldwide network of national nuclear laboratories, the IAEA provides concrete tools to forensic experts and investigators. For example, the IAEA through its Coordinated Research Project (CRP) has studied how nuclear analytical techniques can be used to obtain information on food origin and authenticity, to assess art authenticity, and to analyse glass residues in crime scenes.

The IAEA also supports countries by providing technical assistance on nuclear forensics capacity building in the form of trainings, coordinated research programmes, residential assignments and scientific advisories and consultations.

UNICRI is focused on analysing the complex, highly adaptable, transnational nature of organized crime. Its work helps in increasing knowledge on the ways criminal organizations profit from intellectual property crimes. The Institute has identified investigative techniques to disrupt these criminal networks as well as possible technological responses available at global level through which the legitimate supply chain of several products can be better protected from the infiltration of organized crime.

UNICRI and IAEA have already cooperated in computer security, in a research project on utilizing nuclear analytical techniques in forensic science, as well as in fighting production and trading counterfeit and fraudulent products.