Preparing emergency responders to effectively and safely respond to an attempted theft of radioactive sources is critical to responder and public safety. These sources are used to treat cancer, sterilize blood, and for other applications. But in the hands of a terrorist, high-activity radioactive sources could be used to make a radiological dispersal device or “dirty bomb.”
These sources can be found in facilities nationwide. Some, like hospitals, are open 24 hours a day.
NNSA’s Office of Radiological Security (ORS) provides theft-response training to law enforcement and first responders. From September 7 to 10, ORS trained 250 San Francisco Bay Area emergency responders as part of a comprehensive, full-scale regional exercise called Urban Shield 2018. The goal of the exercise was to assess the region’s response capabilities.
“These exercises are important because they give real-time, hands-on practice using the actual security equipment and communication links between response entities,” said Brent Park, Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. “In addition, a group that hasn’t partnered with us yet can see the risk these materials pose to their facility and the community.”
For the theft-response training, an ORS partner facility [BJ(1] provided participants with a realistic simulated radioactive source theft. The exercise facility included elements of security systems that are used to detect, respond, and delay theft. Local, national, and international first responder agencies participated in the exercise to ensure they can react quickly to threats and correctly use security enhancements installed at their facility.
The ORS theft exercise was one of many response scenarios that law enforcement agencies rotated through during Urban Shield. Other scenarios tested regional collaboration in larger-scale scenarios and events ranging from active shooter responses to disaster management.
ORS works with partners in government, law enforcement, and private industry to reduce radiological risk by providing world-class security technologies, expertise, training, source recovery, and alternative technology strategies to users of radioactive sources.