Re-Examining the State of Radiological Source Security in Russia

Re-Examining the State of Radiological Source Security in Russia

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Securing radioactive sources presents a unique and complex challenge due in large part to their diverse physical properties, applications, and operating environments. Considerably more prevalent than nuclear materials, radioactive sources are used throughout the world for medical, industrial, agricultural, research, and other purposes. Sources include radioactive materials that are encapsulated in solid form and can range from iodine seeds used for internal radiotherapy treatment, to industrial irradiators – weighing several tons, used for large-scale sterilization at fixed facilities. Sources can be found at both hospitals in city centers, through which thousands of people pass daily, and highly remote locations, where individuals or small teams use portable devices for a variety of industrial purposes.

Over the last 75 years, Russia and the former Soviet Union have produced at least half a million of these individual ionizing radiation sources for domestic use, and since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has continued to serve as one of the world’s largest producers, users, and exporters of long-lived radiological sources. While perhaps the ultimate security threat facing the world today is a terrorist organization procuring fissile nuclear materials for use in an improvised nuclear device, it is far more likely that terrorist organizations manage to obtain radiological materials for use in a “dirty bomb,” which can have significant effects if used in areas of high population density. 

This paper explores the potential for a radiological attack, as well as the possible outcomes of such an event. It presents an overview of the state of radiological material security and disposal in Russia and highlights progress made, both domestically and internationally, in securing these materials.

Download the paper here.

This paper was submitted to the 58th Institute of Nuclear Materials Management (INMM) Annual Meeting Proceedings.

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The 2023 NTI Nuclear Security Index


The 2023 NTI Nuclear Security Index

“The bottom line is that the countries and areas with the greatest responsibility for protecting the world from a catastrophic act of nuclear terrorism are derelict in their duty,” the 2023 NTI Index reports.


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