The ingredients for a radiological dirty bomb—the very same isotopes that can make life-saving blood transfusions and cancer treatments possible—are located at thousands of sites in more than 150 countries, many of them poorly secured and vulnerable to theft. The vulnerability of these radiological sources, such as cesium-137, has caused concern for years, but today the risk is growing. Cesium is the most attractive and dangerous isotope from a terrorist perspective because it is very difficult to clean up, contains a substantial level of dangerous radiation, and has a long half-life (30 years). World leaders at the 2014 and 2016 Nuclear Security Summits recognized the growing threat and put an important spotlight on the issue of radiological security.
Several countries, such as Japan, France, Norway, and the United States have advanced well beyond advocacy for and implementation of efforts to switch to non-isotopic alternatives. This paper explores the various “case studies” based on the national experiences of Japan, France, Norway, and the United States in support of alternative technologies, and provides several key recommendations for other governments to consider in their national approaches to alternative technologies. These “case studies” reflect a growing global trend that should be part of a broader initiative to achieve permanent threat reduction by replacing cesium with effective alternative x-ray technologies in as many countries as possible.
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This paper was submitted to the 58th Institute of Nuclear Materials Management (INMM) Annual Meeting Proceedings.