WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, introduced an amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act (S.2012) to improve security of high-risk low level radiological materials across the country.
Currently, 2,300 sites across the country contain low-level radiological material that, were it to fall into the wrong hands, could be used to develop a crude dirty bomb. This radiological material is used in hospitals, at construction sites, or for industrial applications. As of December 2015, the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) has secured just 800 of the 2,300 sites containing these materials.
“Recent reports have made it clear that some industrial radiological sources are far too vulnerable to theft or sabotage by terrorists or others wishing to do us harm,” Sen. Carper said. “We must do more to keep these materials from falling into the wrong hands. My amendment makes common-sense improvements to existing safeguards to ensure that terrorist groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda can’t access this material to develop a dirty bomb.”
Sen. Carper’s amendment would require the Administration to report to Congress a strategy for securing all high-risk low level radiological material in the United States. It would also take steps to keep potential dirty bomb material out of the hands of terrorists by strengthening the employee vetting process used to safeguard radiological material. Lastly, the measure would improve communication between federal, state, and local law enforcement in order to better protect this radiological material and to break up potential terrorist theft of dirty bomb material before a plot unfolds. These provisions respond to gaps in the security of radiological material found by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in two past reports, which revealed several instances where radiological material had been stolen from these sites and two instances where convicted criminals, including one individual convicted of making terroristic threats, were granted access to radiological materials.
Specifically, Sen. Carper’s amendment would:
- Require the Administration to report to Congress a strategy for securing all high-risk low level radiological material in the United States.
- Prohibit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from granting a radiological materials license to any individual who is on the terrorism watch list, has been convicted of providing material support for terrorism, or has been convicted of making terroristic threats.
- Require that NRC temporarily suspend a radiological license if NRC discovers that the license-holder has granted unsupervised access privileges to any employee who is on the terrorism watch list, convicted of providing material support for terrorism, or has been convicted of making terroristic threats. If NRC is forced to suspend a license in this manner, NRC could reinstate the license once the license-holder terminates unsupervised access privileges for that employee and notifies local police of this incident.
- Require the Secretary of Homeland Security—through the fusion centers—to ensure that local police departments are made aware of the existence of the radiological material housed within their area of operation and that the police units are briefed on how best to handle suspicious activities reports regarding the radiological material at these sites.