The Department of Energy (DOE) proudly announced that it had recovered and secured 5,529 high-risk radioactive sources that could have been used in making so-called "dirty bombs." All of the high-risk sources were recovered right here in the United States over just an 18 month period.
"We are continuing to work overtime to secure and recover radioactive materials that can be used for dangerous purposes. The national security effort we are involved in to recover these materials with other U.S. agencies is vital to the safety and security all Americans," said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham in a DOE press release.
Congress had tasked the DOE to recover at least 5,000 high risk sources over the 18 month period.
Secretary Abraham said the DOE continues recovering at-risk radiological materials domestically at universities, hospitals, and other locations. Because of the Bush administrations priority on nonproliferation, the Nuclear and Radiological Threat Reduction Task Force accelerated its efforts, which has resulted, to date, in the recovery of over 9,500 high-risk radiological sources within the United States.
In the past three months alone, the task force has had two key achievements. It recovered four high-risk Strontium-90 Radioisotopic Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) in the Houston area in close cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Texas officials. These were the largest high risk sources recovered to date by the task force. This effort served as a model of cooperation between DOE and other U.S. national security agencies. Just last month, the task force recovered, in close cooperation with the NRC and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protections Bureau of Radiation Protection, approximately 500 at-risk radiological sources from a bankrupt company in Pennsylvania. The task force is also exploring additional ways within the U.S. to leverage DOEs expertise and experience in reducing the threat posed by radiological materials that could be used to make a dirty bomb.
A dirty bomb, while incapable of producing a nuclear detonation, uses conventional explosives to disperse potentially deadly radioactive material into the atmosphere, creating the effect of nuclear fallout without the nuclear blast.