Radioactive Material Removed from Massachusetts

Press Release
Dec 21, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that it has secured radioactive material from a small business in eastern Massachusetts. The material, which could potentially be used in a "dirty bomb," was recovered and sent to secure storage as part of NNSA's efforts to protect the country from the potential misuse of radioactive materials by terrorists or other criminals.

"One of NNSA's top priorities is removing and securing materials that pose a national security risk. It is important that we protect the public from dangerous material before it becomes a problem," said NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks. "This mission illustrates one piece of our comprehensive strategy to keep dangerous material out of the hands of dangerous people."

This mission recovered 55 curies of cesium-137 and less than one curie of radium-226 from a small business in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The recovery was funded by NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and organized in close cooperation with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's (MDPH) Radiation Control Program.

The MDPH program has been closely monitoring this small business, and when there were indications that the business could no longer safely manage the material, the MDPH contacted the NRC and NNSA. Due to the close coordination between the federal and state agencies, the material was removed before there was any risk or threat to the public.

GTRI's domestic source recovery program is implemented by the Los Alamos National Laboratory and works around the United States to remove and securely manage radioactive materials that could be at risk for theft and diversion for use in a radiological dispersal device. The program recovers and managed excess, unwanted, or abandoned radioactive sealed sources and other radioactive material. Sources containing radioactive plutonium, americium, cesium, cobalt and strontium have been recovered from medical, agricultural, research and industrial facilities throughout the nation. To date, the program has recovered more than 13,000 sources - enough radioactive material to make over 1,400 potent dirty bombs - from over 500 facilities.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Media contact(s):
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371