International and Domestic Initiatives by the NRC to Improve the Tracking of Radioactive Sources


C. R. Cox, T. H. Essig, J. W. N. Hickey


The terrorist events of 11 September 2001 caused the United States and the international community to re-evaluate the security and use of radionuclides for industrial and medical purposes. Prior to 11 September 2001, several national and international initiatives were in progress to improve safety by reducing the risk of inadvertent exposure from orphan sources. The risk from accidental exposure from orphan sources was the initial impetus for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) work on the Code of Conduct for the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources and the formation of the Trilateral agreement that the NRC has developed with Canadian and Mexican regulators. The Trilateral agreement sets up protocols for reporting lost or stolen sources near the U.S.–Canadian and U.S.–Mexican borders. Because safety and security issues are often comingled, the NRC continues to work with these international groups to improve tracking of radioactive sources. The NRC has also pursued several domestic initiatives in the area of source safety and security. One of these entailed working with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in a joint study on radiological dispersion devices. This study identified radionuclides and quantities of concern with recommendations for improvements in tracking and inventory of high-risk sources and improved focus of the disposal of high-risk unsecured sources. To meet the recommendations from the joint study and the U.S. commitments in the Code of Conduct, the NRC developed an interim database as a precursor to a national source tracking system. The interim database is being updated periodically until the national source tracking system is in place. In addition, the NRC has worked with the Department of Energy to help prioritize their orphan source recovery efforts.


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

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