Nuclear Nonproliferation: Further Actions Needed by U.S. Agencies to Secure Vulnerable Nuclear and Radiological Materials Page: 4 of 28
The following text was automatically extracted from the image on this page using optical character recognition software:
heart of a medium-sized U.S. city. The explosion could cause hundreds of
thousands of deaths and injuries, as well as pose long-term cancer risks
to those exposed to the radioactive fallout.
Radiological material also poses a significant security threat to the United
States and the international community. Radiological material, such as
cobalt-60, cesium-137, and strontium-90, is encapsulated or sealed in
metal-such as stainless steel, titanium, or platinum-to prevent its
dispersal and is commonly called a sealed radiological source. Sealed
radiological sources are used worldwide for many legitimate purposes,
such as medical, industrial, and agricultural applications. The total
number of these sources in use worldwide is unknown because many
countries do not systematically account for them. If certain types of these
sources were obtained by terrorists, they could be used to produce a
simple and crude but potentially dangerous weapon-known as a
radiological dispersion device, or dirty bomb. Although experts believe
that a dirty bomb could result in a limited number of deaths, it could have
severe economic consequences. Depending on the type, amount, and
form, the dispersed radiological material could cause radiation sickness
for people nearby and produce serious economic, psychological and
social disruption associated with the evacuation and subsequent cleanup
of the contaminated area. The economic consequences resulting from the
improper use of radiological materials is not theoretical. Some actual
incidents involving sources can provide a measure of understanding of
what could happen in the case of a dirty bomb attack. For example, in
1987, an accident involving a medical device containing about 1,400
curies of cesium-137,2 killed four people in Brazil's Goiania region and
injured many more. The accident and its aftermath caused about $36
million in damages to the region. The decontamination process required
the demolition of homes and other buildings and generated 3,500 cubic
meters of radioactive waste.
To address these threats, respond to the President's goal of securing
vulnerable nuclear material worldwide within 4 years, and meet the
objectives of the Nuclear Security Summit, U.S. agencies have
undertaken a number of nuclear nonproliferation efforts. Specifically, the
2A curie is a unit of measurement of radioactivity. In modern nuclear physics, it is defined
as the amount of substance in which 37 billion atoms per second undergo radiological
disintegration. In the international system of units, the becquerel is the preferred unit of
radioactivity. One curie equals 3.7 x 1010 becquerels.
Here’s what’s next.
This text can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Tools / Downloads
Get a copy of this page or view the extracted text.
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Text.
United States. Government Accountability Office. Nuclear Nonproliferation: Further Actions Needed by U.S. Agencies to Secure Vulnerable Nuclear and Radiological Materials, text, March 14, 2012; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc302888/m1/4/: accessed April 22, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.