Government urged to rein in radiological materials.

Author:Munnell, Christina
Position:Homeland Security News

A government watchdog said the three agencies charged with securing radiological materials that can be used to make dirty bombs need to collaborate more closely.

David Trimble, natural resources and environment director for the Government Accountability Office, said the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission need to step up their cooperation to decrease the threat of radiological dispersal devices, or "dirty bombs." Recent GAO audits have shown faults in the agencies' systems and security programs because of a lack of communication among them.

"Although DHS, NNSA and NRC have an interagency mechanism for collaborating on, among other things, radiological security, they were not always doing so effectively" Trimble said at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing.

Since GAO's last audit, the administration has worked to enhance its radiological security through the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which has focused heavily on the development of detection devices and on adequately trained response forces to better shield vulnerable sources, said Anne Harrington, nuclear defense administrator at the NNSA.

Failing to guard vulnerable sources puts them at a greater risk of being stolen for use as dirty bombs, which are radioactive materials mixed with conventional explosives. When successfully detonated, radiation disperses and citizens are exposed to harmful contaminants, causing sickness or possible death.

Harrington cited the agency's recent efforts to prevent loss of radiological materials. He estimated that the initiative has provided additional security enhancements to more than half the buildings and work-sites in urban areas containing such material around the country.

Approximately 1,700 of the 3,000 urban buildings that house high-risk radiological materials have undergone major security reconstruction under the program, according to NNSA reports.

Still, the GAO draft May 2014 report "Security of U.S. Radiological Sources" included a recommendation to the NNSA and the other agencies to "enhance collaboration, especially in the development and implementation of new technologies."

Trimble said the agencies should join forces to...

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