Raising awareness, improving security and strengthening global standards to prevent dirty bombs 

NTI works with countries and industry on strategies to better secure radiological materials. 

Thousands of sites in more than 100 countries house radiological sources—usually a sealed source of radiation used in commercial or medical devices, ranging from power source for batteries, types of industrial gauges or blood irradiation equipment.  In what seems a cruel paradox, the very same isotopes used for life-saving blood transfusions and cancer treatments also can also be used to build a “dirty bomb.”

Many of these sources are poorly secured, vulnerable to theft by terrorist organizations seeking the materials needed for radiological dirty bombs.  When detonated, it would release high doses of radiation and contaminate major portions of a city—undoubtedly triggering panic, rendering parts of a city uninhabitable for an extended period of time, resulting in large economic losses and risks of cancer among people who were exposed.  

There are, however, a number of steps that can be taken to better secure—and in some cases even eliminate—vulnerable radiological materials. NTI has launched an initiative to eliminate one of the most lethal types of radioactive sources, cesium 137 blood irradiators, which are used globally in biomedical research and treatment. Ultimately replacing these radiological sources with alternative technologies is the best way to achieve permanent threat reduction. 


A new NTI brochure outlines the radiological security risks associated with cesium-137 blood irradiators used in hospitals around the world.

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Resources for hospitals and research centers

A comprehensive collection of resources for medical and research professionals with cesium-137 irradiators that explains information about the risks, replacement steps, alternative technology, regulation and funding, and experiences from others.

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Related Projects

Radioactive Background

Preventing a Dirty Bomb

Cesium-137 is an isotope used medical equipment such as blood irradiators. However, it is also the most dangerous of all radioactive isotopes. If used in a dirty bomb, the highly dispersible powder would contaminate an area for years, costing billions of dollars in evacuation, demolition and clean-up. NTI works with hospitals, industry and governments to raise awareness about this threat and the availability of safe and effective alternative technologies to cesium-137 blood irradiators.
Blood Irradiator

Radiological Security Progress Report

The NTI Radiological Security Progress Report reviews progress that the 23 states have made in meeting their commitments in accordance with the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) Joint Statement on Enhancing Radiological Security.
B-61 Nuclear Gravity Bombs

Securing the Bomb

The series of Securing the Bomb reports, first commissioned by NTI in 2001 and produced by Harvard University’s Project on Managing the Atom, focus on progress in locking down vulnerable nuclear materials.