DHAKA, Bangladesh – Representatives from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) were in Bangladesh last week to conduct a radiation security workshop focused on locating, identifying, registering and transporting radioactive sources that could be used in radiological dispersal devices (RDD), commonly referred to as “dirty bombs.” The training, the first of its kind in Bangladesh, builds on a decade of cooperation between the two countries.
The workshop, which was led by experts from NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), was attended by representatives from the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladeshi Customs and a variety of law enforcement and source-using organizations. The course is part of GTRI’s Search and Secure program, which, in addition to source search and recovery training, also provides a suite of radiation detection and identification equipment. As part of this course, Bangladesh developed a list of sites likely to contain orphan sources and GTRI will assist in the search and recovery of the first few sites identified.
“The strong partnership between the United States and Bangladesh is a tangible demonstration of our shared commitment to prevent terrorists and proliferators from acquiring dangerous radiological materials,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington. “Securing orphaned or disused radioactive sources is an important part of implementing the goals set forth in the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit Communiqué.”
Every year, hundreds of sources become disused and unwanted around the world. Due to their high activity and portability, some radioactive sealed sources could be used in radiological dispersal devices. An attack using an RDD could result in significant economic impacts, radiation exposure, and considerable social disruption. While secure storage at a site reduces the risk that a source will be stolen, the only way to eliminate that risk is to remove the source from that location entirely.
The Search and Secure workshop and the broader project to secure radioactive material are examples of the productive partnership between the U.S. and Bangladesh. Joint success between the U.S. and Bangladesh to improve nuclear and radiological security includes:
- Cooperation to improve security at medical facilities using high-activity radioactive sources for cancer treatments;
- Improving security at the irradiation facilities and research reactor at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Savar; and
- Removal of disused sources at a former panoramic irradiator in Chittagong.
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.