Rep. Markey Plans Legislation to Implement Report Recommendations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Industrial, research and commercial use of nuclear materials that could be used to make a dirty bomb should be reviewed by the government and one potentially deadly radionuclide, cesium chloride, is so dangerous it should be phased-out completely according to a National Academies of Sciences report required by the 2005 Energy Policy Act and released today. Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), the original author of the legislative language calling for the NAS report, hailed the report.

Rep. Markey said, "We know that terrorists are interested in dirty bomb materials, and this NAS report does a good job of high-lighting some common-sense steps that will improve our homeland security.  This report makes clear that we cannot afford to guard only against accidental exposure to radioactive materials, we must also take all necessary precautions against intentional dispersal in the form of a dirty bomb."

The NAS report, "Radiation Source Use and Replacement," calls for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to re-assess the threat these materials pose to include the threat of deliberate terrorist acts as well as the economic consequences, such as contamination of large urban areas.  In addition, the NAS report outlined less-risky materials which could replace many of the radioactive materials currently used for medical, industrial, research, and commercial purposes.

The report also recommends that, because cesium chloride is so easily dispersed and so widely used, sources of cesium chloride should be replaced in the U.S. as well as abroad if possible. Cesium chloride is a highly radioactive isotope that appears in powdered or pellet form, making it highly portable and very dangerous. In 1987, scavengers in Brazil opened an abandoned canister containing 1400 Curies of powdered cesium and circulated its contents among the community, which resulted in 244 people contaminated, 54 people hospitalized, 19 people with radiation-induced skin burns, and 4 people dead.

"Taking these dangerous nuclear materials out of circulation when there are safer, effective alternatives available should be a no-brainer.  I intend to introduce legislation to implement the key recommendations of this report. Securing and replacing dirty bomb materials is fundamental to protecting our homeland from a potential terrorist attack," added Rep. Markey.

The full report is available on the NAS website HERE.

February 20, 2008

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