NNSA launches radiological security initiative in 100 U.S. cities

September 2, 2021, 12:01PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration has launched a radiological security project known as the RadSecure 100 Initiative. The initiative will focus on removing radioactive material from facilities (where feasible) and improving security at the remaining facilities located in 100 metropolitan areas throughout the United States. It includes a partnership with local law enforcement.

The initiative is being announced this week by the NNSA during the National Homeland Security Conference in Las Vegas.

A list of the 100 U.S. cities where the initiative will be enacted is available online.

Spotlight on materials: “Radioactive materials are used to treat cancer, ensure building safety, and more,” said Kristin Hirsch, director of the NNSA’s Office of Radiological Security (ORS). “But if they were lost or stolen, these materials could pose a significant risk. RadSecure 100 puts the spotlight on the highest priority materials, like cesium-137, in cities nationwide.”

In addition to cesium, the new initiative will enhance radiological security in facilities that use cobalt-60, americium-241, and iridium-192, according to the NNSA.

The plan: The initiative will use three strategies:

  • Replacing radiological devices with alternative technologies not requiring a radioactive source and then removing any sources no longer needed.
  • Advancing the security of radiological facilities and mobile sources by providing security enhancements.
  • Integrating local law enforcement into planning and training to respond to a potential radiological theft.

“Partnerships are key to the success of RadSecure 100,” Hirsch said. “We work with medical facilities, universities, and other businesses across the country to remove and secure materials that could pose a threat. But we also work with local law enforcement to ensure a safe response should something happen.”

Removing the threat: The program will partner with local governments, businesses, educational institutions, and nonprofit partners to voluntarily remove the highest-risk radioactive materials. According to the NNSA, the program includes two major components:

  • The Cesium Irradiator Replacement Project (CIRP), which provides incentives to businesses to replace cesium-137 irradiators with non-radioisotopic technologies such as X-ray devices. These technologies have proven to function as well as, or better than, most existing cesium-137 irradiators, according to the NNSA.
  • The Off-Site Source Recovery Program, which removes, transports, and disposes of the cesium sources that are replaced through CIRP. The program also provides these services for other eligible high-activity radioactive sources.

Securing what’s there: ORS works with security personnel and first responders to develop a containment strategy to prevent the theft of radioactive materials from a facility. ORS assesses security, supports security enhancements, and trains personnel to address threats. ORS has supported about 1,000 facilities across the United States.

Now, RadSecure 100 will enhance security for high-risk radioactive sources while in transport or being used in the field, while ORS will continue working with industry, shippers, and other organizations to find security solutions, provide security training, and conduct analyses to better understand risk.

Working with law enforcement: ORS has been collaborating with local law enforcement agencies in U.S. cities to enhance the response capabilities of facilities with high-risk radioactive material.

Support for responders includes training in alarm response and the use of personal radiation detectors at an NNSA facility. Virtual training options have also been developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. A local option, Radiological Security Awareness Response Training, partners ORS with cities so that local law enforcement can implement their own tailored training programs augmented by mock irradiators, trailers, and training videos as needed. Agencies that implement an ORS application known as the Remote Monitoring System get immediate notification of a theft, as well as situational awareness.

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