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Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Sciences

Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Sciences


The Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Sciences Unit (CBRNSU), established in 2002, develops and maintains the FBI Laboratory’s ability to conduct and/or direct high-quality forensic examinations of hazardous chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials and all related evidence. The CBRNSU provides unique and robust forensic capabilities that serve the investigative and intelligence needs of FBI field offices and legats in criminal and terrorist investigations involving the procurement, sale, transport, or use of CBRN materials. The CBRNSU also may provide services, as requested, to other U.S. government agencies and local and state authorities.

The Team

Supervisory special agents, biologist forensic examiners, chemist forensic examiners, operations research analysts, a quality assurance specialist, management and program analysts, and a management and program assistant

The Work

CBRNSU currently has three case-working programs:

  • The Chemistry Program addresses chemical warfare agents such as nerve, blood or blister agents, and other chemical hazards, including biological toxins and hazardous industrial chemicals that can be used as weapons.
  • The Biology Program addresses hazardous biological materials used as weapons. Biological weapons include toxins and microbial agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can cause disease in humans, animals, and plants.
  • The Radiological/Nuclear Program addresses radiological and nuclear materials with the potential to be used as weapons. These include materials which could be employed in a radioactive dispersal device or in an improvised nuclear device.

The CBRNSU is also tasked with ensuring that traditional forensic examinations, such as latent fingerprints, trace materials, DNA, etc., can be carried out on evidentiary items contaminated with hazardous CBRN materials. The CBRNSU coordinates, trains, and exercises the Laboratory Division’s Hazardous Evidence Analysis Team (HEAT). HEAT is a team of experienced, trained examiners who can be deployed to Partner Laboratories to conduct their analyses.


The CBRNSU maintains formalized partnerships with key laboratories, called Partner Laboratories, within U.S. government, academia, and the private sector that afford critical scientific capabilities and expertise and provide the necessary containment and security to support examinations involving these hazardous materials. Working through its Partner Laboratory, the CBRNSU reviews, validates, and exercises existing protocols for CBRN materials, participates in the research and the development of new technologies to address capability gaps, sponsors the development and production of standard reference materials, and collaborates with CBRN experts in defining best practices for the forensic analyses of CBRN materials.