A Systematic Approach to Evaluate and Augment the Security of Radioactive Materials for a Large Academic Health System


A. M. Jackson


Highly determined terrorist groups have actively sought radioactive materials for use in radiological dispersal devices such as "dirty bombs." Reevaluation of the security precautions for radioactive materials has become necessary. While security enhancements could be added simply, a more effective approach would be to utilize security measures proportionate to the radiological and security risks. Thus, material storage areas were identified that contain sufficient amounts of material to cause injury, significant economic damage, or public hysteria. The approach taken was to leverage radiation safety office efforts by coordinating with other organizations, especially security staff who have specialized training and practical experience in preventing deliberate acts of violence. The principal means of evaluating security threats was based on the presence of poorly secured, moderate- to long-lived, dispersible, high-specific-activity, radiotoxic radioactive material sources capable of causing deterministic injury. The cost and expected effectiveness of these measures is of paramount importance in determining whether additional security measures are needed. Finally, given the humanitarian mission of a health system and the fundamental need to resist forces that act against those aims, none of the valid activities chosen by our clinicians or researchers should be significantly curtailed or disrupted simply to promote greater security. Based on this framework, the hazard potential of each radioactive material area was ranked using a hazard matrix and areas needing additional security were identified. The relative merit of security systems, both equipment and procedures, were evaluated. Finally, security upgrades were recommended to administration via the Radiation Safety committee and funding was approved. Contracts were developed and implementation issues not previously anticipated were handled. Generic details of the final program elements that do not specifically divulge critical security secrets will be shared.


This abstract was presented at the 38th Annual Midyear Meeting, "Materials Control and Security: Risk Assessment, Handling, and Detection", Materials Control and Security in University and Medical Facilities Session, 2/13/2005 - 2/16/2005, held in New Orleans, LA.

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