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Task Force on Radiation Source Protection and Security

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 directed the Radiation Source Protection and Security Task Force to evaluate and provide recommendations relating to the security of radiation sources in the U.S. from potential terrorist threats, including acts of sabotage, theft, or use of a radiation source in a radiological dispersal device (RDD). The task force is comprised of independent experts from 14 Federal agencies and one State organization, and is chaired by the NRC.  The independent task force members represented agencies with broad authority over all aspects of radioactive source control, including regulatory, security, intelligence, and international activities.

The legislation also mandated that within 1 year of enactment, and not less than every 4 years thereafter, reports containing recommendations, including recommendations for appropriate regulatory and legislative changes, be provided to the U.S. Congress and the President.  On August 15, 2006, the task force submitted its first report to the President and Congress.  The task force submitted its second report on August 11, 2010.

On August 14, 2014, the task force submitted its third report.  The report notes that important progress has been made since 2006 in regard to improving the security of domestic radioactive sources given the enduring threat of terrorists seeking radioactive materials to attack the United States.  The task force has routinely met to discuss progress and further evaluate the protection and security of risk-significant radioactive materials.  The following, as highlighted in the 2014 report, provides the many accomplishments that were achieved over the previous 4 years, including the closeout of a number of significant recommendations from the 2006 and 2010 reports:  

  • Expanded disposal capacity:  The initiation of operations at the Waste Control Specialists commercial low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) disposal facility licensed by the State of Texas in 2012 has provided commercial disposal access to sealed source waste generators in the 36 States that had been without a commercial disposal pathway since 2008.  Therefore, disposal options for many commercial Class A, B, and C sealed sources are now available to LLRW generators in all 50 States.  Progress has been made in addressing ongoing challenges regarding the transportation of sealed sources that exceeds current commercial disposal activity limits.  These efforts include public and private sector engagement on the revision of NRC guidance regarding commercial disposal of sealed sources, development of new transportation containers to facilitate the recovery of high-activity sources and devices, and progress toward a final Environmental Impact Statement for the disposal of greater-than-Class C LLRW.

  • Increased physical protection:  In March 2013, the NRC published a final rule in the Federal Register in which security requirements for the use and transport of Category 1 and 2 quantities of radioactive material were incorporated in a new Part of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR):  10 CFR Part 37, "Physical Protection of Byproduct Material".  The rule sets revised requirements for:  background investigations; access controls; security plans; immediate detection, assessment, and response to unauthorized access; tracking of shipments; security barriers; and other requirements.  Additionally, the U.S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration continues to provide voluntary security enhancements and specialized training to holders of such sources through its Global Threat Reduction Initiative at sites that use Category 1 and 2 radioactive sources.  Entities that participate in these voluntary programs must still meet all regulatory requirements.  Both appropriate facility personnel and local law enforcement agencies are eligible for GTRI training programs.

  • Enhanced tracking and accounting:  In August 2012 and May 2013, the NRC deployed two key software systems, the Web-Based Licensing System (WBL) and the License Verification System (LVS), respectively.  The WBL supports the entry of licensing information that enables the NRC and Agreement States to manage the licensing life cycle from initial application through license issuance, amendment, reporting, and termination.  The LVS is a web-based system designed to enable licensed users to electronically verify the validity of a license issued by the NRC or an Agreement State.  The WBL and the LVS, along with the National Source Tracking System that was deployed in 2009, are the three key systems that make up the Integrated Source Management Portfolio, which support the Radioactive Materials Security Program and related radioactive materials licensing and tracking activities of the NRC.

  • Increased preparedness and communication:  Public education efforts and coordination amongst the Federal, State, and Tribal Government organizations in the area of radioactive source security made significant strides.  For example, one of the seven projects within the Public Education Action Plan developed by the interagency Public Education Steering Committee for the 2010 Task Force report was completed in 2013 and can serve as a foundation for a guide for communicating with the public following RDD events.  This would complete a triad of communications guides for radiological and nuclear events:  nuclear power plant accidents, improvised nuclear devices, and now the third, RDDs.

  • Improved transportation security coordination:  In 2014, a final draft of the Transport Security Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the NRC, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, which serves as a foundation for cooperation in the establishment of a comprehensive and consistent transport security program for risk-significant sources, was completed, and signature is expected in Calendar Year 2014.  The MOU is aimed at ensuring that the transportation of radioactive sources in the U.S. and across U.S. borders is carried out in a manner that protects the public health and safety and does not impact the common defense and security of the U.S. 

  • Heightened international activity and visibility:  At the 2012 and 2014 Nuclear Security Summits, held in Seoul and The Hague, respectively, the security of radioactive sources received high-level attention.  In particular, the U.S. sponsored a Joint Statement at the 2014 Summit that was signed by 22 other countries that expresses the countries' intent to secure Category 1 sources within their territories by 2016.  In addition, the U.S. continued to support IAEA efforts to encourage nations to make a political commitment to work toward following the guidance in the International Atomic Energy Agency Code of Conduct on Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources.  To date, 122 nations have made this political commitment, marking an increase of 22 nations since 2010.  The U.S. also took an active role in assisting the IAEA with organizing the 2013 International Conference on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources:  Maintaining Continuous Control Throughout the Lifecycle in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  Further, the U.S. was instrumental in periodically convening the 10-member ad hoc group of countries that are major suppliers of radioactive sources to continue a dialogue on ways to improve implementation of export controls for radioactive sources and develop best practices for the repatriation of legacy sources.

The report also presents the status of the open recommendations and actions, as presented in the 2010 report, as well as proposals of three new recommendations, which include topics covering cybersecurity; disposition/disposal financial planning or other mechanisms; and the transition to effective alternative technologies. The task force intends to continue to meet to implement and monitor the progress of any public interactions related to the remaining open recommendations and actions and to identify any additional gaps that may arise in the years to come.

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Related Letters

Letter Date Description
Chairman Dale E. Klein to Congressman Thomas R. Carper 01/24/2007 Status of NRC's rulemaking efforts to implement Section 651(e) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 on "Treatment of Accelerator-Produced and Other Radioactive Material as Byproduct Material"
Chairman Dale E. Klein to Michael Chertoff, Secretary, DHS 08/28/2006 The NRC's perspective on security improvements made over the past five years

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, August 21, 2014