A Permanent Risk Reduction

January 31, 2020
Miles Pomper

By 'Matthew G. Bisanz, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7977537

The Keck Center, Source: ‘Matthew G. Bisanz, CC BY-SA 3.0, WikiMedia Commons

On January 31, 2020, Senior Fellow Miles Pomper delivered a presentation to the National Academies of Sciences’ conference on “Radioactive Sources: Applications and Alternative Technologies,” held in Washington, DC, at the Keck Center of the National Academies. The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, founder of Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security, and included presentations from experts at Sandia National Laboratories, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, Nuclear Threat Initiative, Department of Homeland Security, and the Government Accounting Office.

High-Risk Sources

High-risk sources include Americium-241, Americium-241/Beryllium, Cesium-137, Cobalt-60, and Iridium-192. Though there are other radionuclides identified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to be “of principal concern” if used in a radiological dispersion device—oftentimes called “dirty bombs” in the media—these particular five radionuclides are in widespread commercial use around the world, and are of the highest risk for such weaponization.

In his presentation, Pomper discussed the series of workshops and studies conducted by CNS since 2008, including:

He examined the varied and important uses for these high-risk materials—including medical, insect sterilization, oil and gas, and food industry uses—and discussed existing alternatives. He concluded with recommendations for encouraging more widespread use of these alternatives, including steps for the US government to take.

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