National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA continues outreach to state and local authorities on radiological security with meeting in Boston

November 5, 2018

You are here

NNSA and partners discuss the benefits and challenges of securing radiological materials.
NNSA and partners discuss the benefits and challenges of securing radiological materials.

The success of the NNSA Office of Radiological Security’s (ORS) 2020 Cities Initiative requires the support and collaboration of a wide range of partners, including businesses, law enforcement, city and state leaders, and federal agencies. Recently, ORS brought many of these partners together for the East Coast Radiological Security Leaders Meeting in Chelsea, Massachusetts.

The 2020 Cities Initiative works to secure high-activity radioactive materials in major U.S. cities by 2020. Under this initiative, ORS provides security enhancements to facilities that have such materials and trains law-enforcement professionals responsible for responding if the materials are stolen. ORS also encourages facilities to replace devices that use radioactive materials with technologies that do not.

NNSA and partners discuss protecting, removing, and reducing radiological materials.
NNSA and partners discuss protecting, removing, and reducing radiological materials.

High-activity radioactive materials such as cesium-137 and cobalt-60 are used to treat cancer, irradiate blood and food, and sterilize equipment. However, if lost or stolen, these materials could be used by a terrorist to make a radiological dispersal device, or “dirty bomb.” Since these radioactive materials are used in a number of commercial, medical, and research facilities that are open to the public, their security is critical to public safety.

At the meeting, state and local authorities from the cities of Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and Washington were able to assess the risk of high-activity radioactive materials, learn about ORS and its programs, and share lessons learned and best practices in radiological security. 

NNSA discusses benefits of alternative technologies with its partners.
NNSA discusses benefits of alternative technologies with its partners.

“Nuclear and radiological terrorism remain very real risks,” said Professor Matthew Bunn of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, who spoke at the event. “In leading global efforts to reduce these dangers, the United States needs to walk the talk, making sure its own radiological sources that could be used in a dirty bomb are secure and its first responders are prepared. We also need to switch to technologies that can’t be used in a dirty bomb wherever practical.”

ORS works with partners to reduce radiological risk by providing world-class security technologies, expertise, training, source recovery, and alternative technology strategies to users of radioactive sources. For more information, click here.