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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

U.S. Nuclear Material Transport Rules Changed

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has added security measures for the transportation of Category 1 and 2 radioactive materials within the United States. Category 1 and 2 radioactive materials are those that are considered useful in attempts at terrorism.

The NRC said in its new regulation that "theft or diversion of risk-significant" radioactive materials traveling to and from industrial, medical and academic institutions could be used as radiological dispersal devices or "dirty bombs," or radiological exposure devices or "hidden sealed sources," and warrant enhanced security in the current post-9/11 "threat environment."

The new rules include background investigations and fingerprinting through the implementation of an Access Authorization Program, and establish a physical security program and security zones.

Specific transfer rules include, "requirements for pre-transfer checks, preplanning and coordination of shipments, advance notification of shipments, control, monitoring and communications during shipments, procedures, investigations of missing shipments, and reporting of missing material."

Category 1 and 2 refers to 16 specific radioactive materials: Americium-241; americium-241/beryllium; californium-252; curium-244; cobalt-60; cesium-137; gadolinium-153; iridium-192; plutonium-238; plutonium-239/beryllium; promethium-147; radium-226; selenium-75; strontium-90 (yttrium-90); thulium-170; and ytterbium-169.

The rules also include security requirements for shipments of irradiated reactor fuel that weighs 100 grams, or 0.22 pounds, that has a "total external radiation dose rate in excess of 1 Gray (100 rad) per hour at a distance of 1 meters (3.3 feet) from any accessible surface without intervening shielding."

The NRC said the loss of risk-significant materials could be catastrophic.

"Loss of control of risk-significant radioactive material, whether inadvertent or through a deliberate act, could result in significant adverse impacts that could reasonably constitute a threat to the public health and safety, or the common defense and security of the United States," the NRC noted in its regulation.

The rules on transportation of nuclear materials have been amended over the last decade to include fingerprinting, FBI criminal background checks, license verification, access control, intrusion detection and response and coordination with local law enforcement authorities, some of which were mandated through the Energy Policy Act and the Atomic Energy Act of 2005.

The rules apply to a wide range of licensees including medical facilities with gamma knife devices, radiographers, broad scope users and radioisotope thermoelectric generator licensees. There are almost 1,400 in all.

The NRC also considered a petition by the state of Washington to include in the new rules the adoption of global positioning satellite tracking as a national requirement for vehicles transporting radioactive material. The NRC said, however, it believes current "requirements provide adequate protection for mobile devices and that GPS is neither justified nor necessary."

The new rules are effective May 20, but compliance is not required until March 19, 2014.

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