SAN FRANCISCO – The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), in cooperation with NTI Board Member California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. and the California Department of Public Health, hosted a private meeting last week with more than 80 hospital, university and business leaders, as well as officials from across the state government to make progress on reducing the risks posed by radiological materials.
NTI is working with the State of California to devise strategies to secure and/or replace high-activity radiological sources that could be stolen and used to build radioactive “dirty bombs.” These materials can be found at hospitals and other medical facilities in California and around the country.
“We are here today to talk about replacing Cesium-137 blood irradiators with x-ray devices that don't have the same security risks,” Brown said at the gathering. “There is an insufficient awareness of the real risks associated with Cesium-137 and the alternatives that are available.”
“The State of California has been an outstanding partner in the effort to reduce radiological risks and prevent the dangerous misuse of material that could be used to build radioactive ‘dirty’ bombs,” said NTI Co-Chairman Sam Nunn. “We appreciate the participation and commitment of private-sector and government leaders to work together on this important initiative.”
“There is an opportunity to replace Cesium-137 blood irradiators with alternative x-ray technologies at a reasonable cost,” NTI Co-Chairman and CEO Ernest J. Moniz commented at the meeting. “We are prepared to work with Congress, the administration, and others to help promote the goal of phasing out all Cesium-137 blood irradiators in the United States by 2025.”
Participants learned about radiological risks and risk mitigation in California, a state with a large number of high-activity radiological sources often used in medical and research equipment. The meeting highlighted steps that can be taken to better secure these sources and, where feasible, replace them with safe and effective alternative technologies. U.S. Department of Energy representatives discussed federal programs that provide incentives for conversion to x-ray devices and the removal/disposal of disused sources. Participants also reviewed efforts underway at other hospitals and medical facilities, particularly in New York, to replace blood irradiators with radioactive Cesium-137 sources with safe, effective, alternative x-ray technologies that cannot be used to make dirty bombs.
In addition to Brown, Nunn, and Moniz, other participants included senior officials and representatives from the California Department of Public Health, the University of California, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, Sandia National Laboratories, the University of Southern California, and New York’s Mount Sinai Health System.
NTI works closely with numerous government and industry stakeholders to address the growing radiological threat. Among them: the Office of Governor Brown, the California Department of Public Health, New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration and its Office of Radiological Security.
NTI is grateful to Walter and Karen Loewenstern for their generous financial contribution to make this workshop possible.For more information, visit “Preventing a Dirty Bomb.”
Cathy Gwin (NTI)