National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA leverages its world-class nuclear emergency response expertise to enhance global preparedness and response

November 22, 2016

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Participants sharing results from surveys of test shipping containers, exercising radioisotope screening and localization best practices

Participants discuss use of sealed sources in training environment to test and improve operation of radiation detection tools in the field.How do you safely locate and respond to radiological or nuclear threats headed into your country?

This challenge was the topic of the International Workshop on Nuclear Security Measures and Emergency Response Arrangements for Ports, a training course jointly conducted last month by NNSA’s Office of Nuclear Incident Policy and Cooperation and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). According to the IAEA, the agency received reports worldwide of 155 instances between December 2014 and December 2015 involving the illicit trafficking, theft, loss, or other unauthorized activities involving nuclear or other radiological materials. Many of these involved nuclear or radiological materials detected at ports and customs checkpoints, raising the issue of how to respond to these incidents once they are detected.

The workshop, hosted at NNSA’s Nevada National Security Site, gave participants the chance to learn directly from NNSA and IAEA nuclear security and emergency response experts. Representatives from 14 countries gathered to learn effective techniques to:

  • operate various detection equipment to locate radiation “hot spots”
  • measure resulting dose rates
  • identify radioactive material and take appropriate protective, responsive actions
  • conduct an operational response to any radiological materials out of regulatory control, such as those that are lost or trafficked
  • address public communications requirements

In addition to valuable technical training, the workshop venue afforded participants the ability to conduct field exercises using actual radiation sources hidden inside shipping containers. The course featured training on technical capabilities that countries can request in case of a radiological emergency, including the IAEA Response and Assistance Network and DOE’s 24/7 capability for analyzing radiological and nuclear threats.

The course is one of five joint NNSA-IAEA training events held each year. For more information, please contact NNSA.

Participants undertaking comprehensive container mapping with a radioisotope identifier.

Participants examining the contents of container used in practical exercises.