Nuclear Nonproliferation: Additional Actions Needed to Improve Security of Radiological Sources at US Medical Facilities.

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Summary

In the hands of terrorists, radiological material, such as cesium-137, could be used to construct a "dirty bomb." Such material -- encapsulated in steel or titanium and called a sealed source -- is commonly found in equipment used by US medical facilities to treat, among other things, cancer patients. NRC is responsible for regulating the commercial use of sealed sources and has relinquished its regulatory authority to 37 states, known as Agreement States. In 2008, NNSA established a program to provide security upgrades to US hospitals and medical facilities that use radiological sources. GAO was asked to determine (1) the extent to which NRC's requirements ensure the security of radiological sources at US medical facilities and (2) the status of NNSA's efforts to improve the security of sources at these facilities. GAO reviewed relevant laws, regulations, and guidance; interviewed federal agency and state officials; and visited 26 hospitals and medical facilities in 7 states and Washington, DC GAO recommends, among other things, that NRC strengthen its security requirements by providing medical facilities with specific measures they must take to develop and sustain a more effective security program. NRC neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation and stated that its existing security requirements are adequate. GAO continues to believe that implementing its recommendation would contribute to increased security at US hospitals and medical facilities.

Subject Keywords

AMERICIUM-241, CESIUM-137, DIRTY BOMB, DOMESTIC MATERIAL PROTECTION PROGRAM, HIGH-RISK RADIOLOGICAL DEVICES, HIGH-RISK RADIOLOGICAL SOURCES, RADIOACTIVE DISPERSAL DEVICE (RDD), RADIOACTIVE ISOTOPES, RADIOACTIVE SEALED SOURCES

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