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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. The task force is comprised of independent experts from 14 Federal agencies and two State organizations, 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, must 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 quadrennial report on August 11, 2010. 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 2010 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 report:

  • Since 2006, interagency preparedness has increased. Also, interagency coordination and the interagency group’s ability to communicate with the public during an emergency have improved with regard to assessing security programs, making risk-significant radioactive sources more secure, and mitigating consequences—thereby reducing the potential risk of use by terrorists.
  • In 2007–2009, the Task Force reevaluated the list of risk-significant radioactive sources and the associated threshold quantities warranting enhanced security and protection to assess their adequacy in light of the evolving threat environment.
  • Since 2007, existing security was improved by (1) requiring fingerprinting and Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal history records checks of all individuals with unescorted access to risk-significant quantities of radioactive materials to further improve the tools available to determine trustworthiness and reliability, and (2) providing voluntary security enhancements and specialized training to sites and local law enforcement agencies.
  • In January 2009, the NRC deployed a major security initiative—the National Source Tracking System. This computer system, mandated in the EPAct, tracks the possession and transfers of more than 70,000 risk-significant radioactive sources over the life cycle of those sources
  • In 2007–2009, the Task Force conducted a study to assess the feasibility of phasing out the use of cesium-137 in a highly dispersible form (cesium chloride (CsCl)). Considering the results of the study and other input received, the Task Force concluded that immediate phase-out would not be feasible because the sources are extensively used in a wide range of applications in medicine, industry, and research with significant health benefits to patients. However, a gradual, stepwise phase-out could be feasible as alternatives become technologically and economically viable and if disposal pathways are identified.
  • In 2008–2010, the Task Force evaluated alternative technologies for the seven most common risk-significant radioactive devices. It assessed financial incentives, research needs, and the costs and benefits of potential alternative devices. The analysis found that while alternatives exist for some applications, the viability, relative risk reduction achievable, and stage of development of these alternatives vary greatly.
  • By 2010, 100 countries had made a political commitment to follow the International Atomic Energy Agency Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources (Code of Conduct).  This is a substantial increase from the 86 countries that made the commitment by 2006.

The report also presents the status of all the recommendations and actions from the 2006 report, as well as proposals of new recommendations in the areas of: coordination and communication improvements among the interagency and public; advances in the security and controls of radioactive sources; recovery and disposition of radioactive sources; and alternative technologies that could perform all or some of the functions that use radiation sources.

The task force intends to continue to meet to implement and monitor the progress of any public interactions related to these 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, October 31, 2013