The US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) said on 31 August it had launched a major radiological security project to enhance US radiological security. The RadSecure 100 Initiative focuses on removing radioactive material from facilities where feasible and improving security at the remaining facilities located in 100 metropolitan areas throughout the United States. It includes a significant partnership with local law enforcement.

“Radioactive materials are used to treat cancer, ensure building safety, and more,” said Kristin Hirsch, Director of NNSA’s Office of Radiological Security (ORS). “But if they were lost or stolen, these materials could pose a significant risk. RadSecure 100 puts the spotlight on the highest priority materials, such as caesium-137, in cities nationwide.”

In addition to caesium, RadSecure 100, a new domestic initiative from ORS, enhances radiological security in facilities that use cobalt-60, americium-241, and iridium-192, located in 100 metropolitan areas throughout the USA. 

The initiative is being announced at the National Homeland Security Conference in Las Vegas. To secure radioactive materials and reduce the risk they pose, the RadSecure 100 Initiative is using three strategies:

  • Replacing radiological devices with alternative technologies not requiring a radioactive source and then removing any sources no longer needed.
  • Advancing the security of radiological facilities and mobile sources by providing security enhancements.
  • Integrating local law enforcement into planning and training to respond to a potential radiological theft.

“Partnerships are key to the success of RadSecure 100,” Hirsch said. “We work with medical facilities, universities, and other businesses across the country to remove and secure materials that could pose a threat. But we also work with local law enforcement to ensure a safe response should something happen.”

The programme partners with local governments, businesses, educational institutions, and non-profit partners to voluntarily remove the highest-risk radioactive materials. Two large pieces of that strategy include:

  • The Caesium Irradiator Replacement Project (CIRP), which provides incentives to businesses to replace cesium-137 irradiators with non-radioisotopic technologies such as X-ray devices. These technologies have proven to function as well as, or better than, most existing cesium-137 irradiators.
  • The Off-Site Source Recovery Programme, which removes, transports, and safely disposes of the caesium sources that are replaced through CIRP. It also provides these services for other eligible high-activity radioactive sources.

Where permanent risk reduction is not possible, ORS works with security personnel and first responders to develop a “containment” strategy to prevent the theft of radioactive materials from a facility. ORS assesses security, supports security enhancements, and trains personnel to address threats. The programme has supported about 1,000 facilities across the USA in this way.

RadSecure 100 also focuses on transportation security so that high-risk radioactive sources – while in transport or being used in the field. ORS works with industry, shippers, and other organizations to find security solutions provide security training, and conduct analyses to better understand risk.

Through RadSecure 100, ORS collaborates with agencies in 100 US cities to enhance response capabilities to facilities with high-risk radioactive material. Support for responders includes training in alarm response and using personal radiation detectors at an NNSA facility. Virtual training options have also been developed during the Covid-19 pandemic. A local option, Radiological Security Awareness Response Training, puts ORS on the road to partner cities so agencies can implement their own tailored training programs augmented by mock irradiators, trailers, and training videos as needed. Agencies that implement ORS’s Remote Monitoring System get immediate notification of a theft as well as situational awareness.