National Nuclear Security Administration

Atlanta joins initiative to strengthen radiological security

March 30, 2018

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Representatives from Emory University, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and NNSA join Georgian, Emory alumnus, and keynote speaker, Sen. Sam Nunn, center, NTI co-chair.
Representatives from Emory University, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and NNSA join Georgian, Emory alumnus, and keynote speaker, Sen. Sam Nunn, center, NTI co-chair.

A “dirty bomb” attack – or one using a radiological dispersal device – in a major city would have significant consequences. To help protect our cities and prevent such an attack, NNSA’s Office of Radiological Security (ORS) works with U.S. and international partners to protect, reduce, and remove radioactive sources

Atlanta has been a key contributor to this effort. The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and Emory University, in partnership with ORS, recently organized a workshop in Atlanta to promote radiological security and reduce the risk of radiological terrorism.

The workshop brought together representatives from Atlanta’s hospitals and research centers, the state-level nuclear regulator, and law enforcement and emergency response communities. Attendees discussed their roles in enhancing radiological security, as well as in planning and preparing for radiological emergencies. They also learned from the experiences of communities and organizations that already have taken steps to secure their Cs-137 irradiators or replaced them with X-ray devices.

As a long-standing partner of ORS, Atlanta plays a key role in the 2020 Cities Initiative – a campaign focused on accelerating important radiological security work in major metropolitan areas across the nation by 2020. Notably, most sites with radioactive materials in Atlanta already have volunteered for ORS-recommended security enhancements. 

Emory University worked with ORS and NTI to convert the university’s radioactive source-based blood irradiator to an X-ray-based device, eliminating the risk that the radioactive material could be misused in a dirty bomb.

ORS will continue to work closely with Atlanta and other sites across the U.S. to protect, replace, and dispose of the high-risk irradiators. Atlanta, like New York City and the University of California system, stands as a model for engagement under the 2020 Cities Initiative. 

Facilities interested in transitioning away from radioactive source-based technologies may receive financial support from the NNSA’s Cesium Irradiator Replacement Project. The program helps offset costs for removing the source-based device, and can share the costs for the purchase of the new X-ray device.