THE 2018 RADIATION SOURCE PROTECTION AND SECURITY TASK FORCE REPORT

In October 2018, The 2018 Radiation Source Protection and Security Task Force Report (2018 Task Force Report) was submitted to the President and the U.S. Congress by the Chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as required under Public Law 109-58, The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Energy Policy Act).

Overview

Like the reports that precede it, the 2018 Task Force Report includes a discussion of accomplishments of the Interagency Task Force on Radiation Source Protection and Security (Task Force) and its member agencies over the past four years, as well as the status of actions underway by the Task Force to provide further assurance of the security of sources in all stages of their life cycle. 

In preparation for this report, the Task Force evaluated the specific topics identified in the Energy Policy Act, including the list of radioactive sources that warrant enhanced protection; mechanisms for the safe storage and ultimate disposal of radioactive sources; transportation security; source tracking; import and export; and, ways to facilitate the use of alternative technologies to replace radioactive sources, as appropriate.  Based on its evaluation, the Task Force concluded that there are no significant gaps in the area of radioactive source protection and security that are not already being addressed through continued attention by appropriate Task Force agencies. Nonetheless, the Task Force remains engaged in activities to address ongoing challenges involving end-of-life management of risk-significant sources. 

During this report cycle, the Task Force completed four recommendations from previous reports, which leaves only seven ongoing recommendations from the 2006, 2010, and 2014 reports.  In addition, the Task Force stated that it has completed several important accomplishments over the course of the past 4 years.  These include: 

  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) completed the “Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Disposal of Greater-Than-Class-C Low-Level Radioactive Waste and GTCC-Like Waste” (Final EIS) and submitted the Report to Congress identifying and describing the alternatives under consideration for the disposal of Greater-than-Class-C (GTCC) low-level radioactive waste, as required by Section 631 of the Energy Policy Act.  Although the Final EIS and Report to Congress do not constitute a final decision on disposal of GTCC low-level radioactive waste, their completion represents a major accomplishment in progress toward establishing a disposal pathway for certain risk-significant radioactive sources.
  • The NRC issued certificates of compliance to DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) for two new transportation packages — the Model 435-B container in 2014 and the Model 380-B container in 2017.  Together, the new containers will help to enable shipment of nearly all commercially used devices containing high-activity cobalt-60 and cesium-137 radioactive sealed sources.
  • The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Interagency Working Group on Alternatives to High-Activity Radioactive Sources completed its best practices guide for federal agencies.  The guide provides measures that federal agencies can consider to facilitate the transition to alternative technologies in their long-term strategic planning in a way that meets technical, operational and cost requirements.
  • The United States continued to elevate the international radioactive source safety and security framework.  For example, the U.S. continues to support International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) efforts to encourage member states to make a political commitment to act in accordance with the IAEA “Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources” that was issued in March 2005 and updated in May 2012.  In addition, the U.S. was instrumental in finalizing supplementary guidance to the IAEA Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, “Guidance on the Management of Disused Radioactive Sources,” which was issued in April 2018.

The Task Force continues to focus on actions to advance end-of-life management for risk- significant radioactive sources through efforts to establish expanded disposal capability and to identify opportunities to leverage best practices for the management of sources once they become disused.  The Task Force also continues to focus on efforts to advance the research, development and use of alternative technologies to replace radioactive sources, as appropriate, as well as to coordinate strategies to enhance the protection of radioactive sources from potential cyber security threats.  These actions will provide an enhanced level of protection and security for risk-significant sources, beyond the regulations currently in place. 

Conclusion

During this report cycle, the 2018 Task Force completed four of the 11 recommendations and actions that remained in process at the start of this reporting period and concluded that there are no significant gaps in radioactive source protection and security that are not already being addressed.  However, the Task Force continues to focus on end-of-life management of risk-significant sources.  The Task Force will continue to advance its efforts to complete the remaining seven recommendations and actions and will coordinate routinely to identify and mitigate any gaps in source protection and security that may emerge in the future. 

Consistent with the Energy Policy Act, the Task Force has continued its efforts to evaluate the security of radioactive sources and make related recommendations to the President and Congress.  The 2018 Task Force Report states that the Task Force has made substantial progress since the events of September 11, 2001 to enhance the protection of radioactive sources from terrorist threats and concludes that the United States is well positioned to continue to protect public health and safety and promote the common defense and security through the existing missions and activities of Task Force member agencies. 

Background

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 established the Task Force to evaluate and provide recommendations to the President and Congress relating to the security of radioactive sources in the United States from potential terrorist threats.  These threats include acts of sabotage, theft or use of a radioactive source in a radiological dispersal device or radiation exposure device.  The Task Force presented its initial report to the President and Congress in 2006 and has continued to provide reports every four years consistent with the Energy Policy Act of 2005. 

Fourteen federal agencies and one industry organization participate on the Task Force.  Members of the Task Force as mandated by the Energy Policy Act include the NRC Chair, Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Transportation, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Director of National Intelligence, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Other invited departments, offices and organizations include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Science and Technology Policy and Organization of Agreement States (OAS) — the latter of which is a non-voting member.

The 2018 Task Force report is divided into three chapters that detail advances in the security and control of radioactive sources; the status of the recovery and disposition of radioactive sealed sources; and, progress in the area of alternative technologies. The 2018 Task Force Report states that, collectively, these chapters substantiate the Task Force’s conclusion that substantial progress has been made since the events of September 11, 2001 to enhance the protection of radioactive sources from terrorist threats, as well as that there are no significant gaps in the area of radioactive source protection and security that are not already being addressed through continued attention by the appropriate Task Force agencies. 

In September 2011, at the request of the NNSA/GTRI, the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Forum (LLW Forum) Forum formed the Disused Sources Working Group (DSWG).  The working group, which was comprised of eight Directors of the LLW Forum, solicited input from a broad range of stakeholders at 19 meetings over a 30-month period.  In March 2014, the DSWG released its report identifying findings and recommendations related to the management and disposition of disused sealed sources that pose a threat to national security. 

A PDF copy of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Forum’s Disused Sources Working Group report may be downloaded and printed from the organization’s web site at www.llwforum.org or the National Directory of Brokers and Processors web site at www.bpdirectory.com.

Background information on the Radiation Source Protection and Security Task Force report, as well as links to the 2006 and 2010 reports, can be found on the NRC’s web site at http://www.nrc.gov/security/byproduct/task-force.html.