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In pyrometallurgical fast reactors , the separated plutonium and uranium are contaminated by actinides and cannot be used for nuclear weapons. Waste from nuclear weapons decommissioning is unlikely to contain much beta or gamma activity other than tritium and americium. It is more likely to contain alpha-emitting actinides such as Pu which is a fissile material used in bombs, plus some material with much higher specific activities, such as Pu or Po.

In the past the neutron trigger for an atomic bomb tended to be beryllium and a high activity alpha emitter such as polonium ; an alternative to polonium is Pu For reasons of national security, details of the design of modern bombs are normally not released to the open literature. Some designs might contain a radioisotope thermoelectric generator using Pu to provide a long lasting source of electrical power for the electronics in the device. It is likely that the fissile material of an old bomb which is due for refitting will contain decay products of the plutonium isotopes used in it, these are likely to include U from Pu impurities, plus some U from decay of the Pu; due to the relatively long half-life of these Pu isotopes, these wastes from radioactive decay of bomb core material would be very small, and in any case, far less dangerous even in terms of simple radioactivity than the Pu itself.

The beta decay of Pu forms Am ; the in-growth of americium is likely to be a greater problem than the decay of Pu and Pu as the americium is a gamma emitter increasing external-exposure to workers and is an alpha emitter which can cause the generation of heat. Naturally occurring uranium is not fissile because it contains Due to historic activities typically related to radium industry, uranium mining, and military programs, numerous sites contain or are contaminated with radioactivity.

In the United States alone, the Department of Energy states there are "millions of gallons of radioactive waste" as well as "thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel and material" and also "huge quantities of contaminated soil and water. Radioactive medical waste tends to contain beta particle and gamma ray emitters. It can be divided into two main classes. In diagnostic nuclear medicine a number of short-lived gamma emitters such as technetiumm are used. Many of these can be disposed of by leaving it to decay for a short time before disposal as normal waste.

Other isotopes used in medicine, with half-lives in parentheses, include:. Industrial source waste can contain alpha , beta , neutron or gamma emitters. Gamma emitters are used in radiography while neutron emitting sources are used in a range of applications, such as oil well logging.

Substances containing natural radioactivity are known as NORM Naturally occurring radioactive material. After human processing that exposes or concentrates this natural radioactivity such as mining bringing coal to the surface or burning it to produce concentrated ash , it becomes technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material TENORM.

The main source of radiation in the human body is potassium 40 K , typically 17 milligrams in the body at a time and 0. TENORM is not regulated as restrictively as nuclear reactor waste, though there are no significant differences in the radiological risks of these materials. Coal contains a small amount of radioactive uranium, barium, thorium and potassium, but, in the case of pure coal, this is significantly less than the average concentration of those elements in the Earth's crust. The surrounding strata, if shale or mudstone, often contain slightly more than average and this may also be reflected in the ash content of 'dirty' coals.

Residues from the oil and gas industry often contain radium and its decay products. The sulfate scale from an oil well can be very radium rich, while the water, oil and gas from a well often contain radon. The radon decays to form solid radioisotopes which form coatings on the inside of pipework.

In an oil processing plant the area of the plant where propane is processed is often one of the more contaminated areas of the plant as radon has a similar boiling point to propane. Classifications of radioactive waste varies by country. Uranium tailings are waste by-product materials left over from the rough processing of uranium -bearing ore. They are not significantly radioactive. Mill tailings are sometimes referred to as 11 e 2 wastes , from the section of the Atomic Energy Act of that defines them.

Uranium mill tailings typically also contain chemically hazardous heavy metal such as lead and arsenic. Vast mounds of uranium mill tailings are left at many old mining sites, especially in Colorado , New Mexico , and Utah. Although mill tailings are not very radioactive, they have long half-lives. Mill tailings often contain radium, thorium and trace amounts of uranium. Low level waste LLW is generated from hospitals and industry, as well as the nuclear fuel cycle. Low-level wastes include paper , rags, tools , clothing , filters, and other materials which contain small amounts of mostly short-lived radioactivity.

Materials that originate from any region of an Active Area are commonly designated as LLW as a precautionary measure even if there is only a remote possibility of being contaminated with radioactive materials. Such LLW typically exhibits no higher radioactivity than one would expect from the same material disposed of in a non-active area, such as a normal office block. Example LLW includes wiping rags, mops, medical tubes, laboratory animal carcasses, and more.

Some high-activity LLW requires shielding during handling and transport but most LLW is suitable for shallow land burial. To reduce its volume, it is often compacted or incinerated before disposal.

Radioactive nuclear waste sits on Great Lakes shores

Intermediate-level waste ILW contains higher amounts of radioactivity compared to low-level waste. It generally requires shielding, but not cooling. It may be solidified in concrete or bitumen for disposal. As a general rule, short-lived waste mainly non-fuel materials from reactors is buried in shallow repositories, while long-lived waste from fuel and fuel reprocessing is deposited in geological repository. High-level waste HLW is produced by nuclear reactors.

The exact definition of HLW differs internationally. After a nuclear fuel rod serves one fuel cycle and is removed from the core, it is considered HLW. Spent fuel is highly radioactive and often hot. HLW accounts for over 95 percent of the total radioactivity produced in the process of nuclear electricity generation.

The radioactive waste from spent fuel rods consist primarily of cesium and strontium, but it may also include plutonium, which can be considered a transuranic waste. Some elements, such as cesium and strontium have half-lives of approximately 30 years. Meanwhile, plutonium has a half-life of that can stretch to as long as 24, years. The amount of HLW worldwide is currently increasing by about 12, metric tons every year. In , it was estimated that about , tons of nuclear HLW were stored.

Japan is estimated to hold 17, tons of HLW in storage in The ongoing controversy over high-level radioactive waste disposal is a major constraint on the nuclear power's global expansion. The Morris Operation is currently the only de facto high-level radioactive waste storage site in the United States. Reprocessing or recycling spent nuclear fuel options already available or under active development still generate some waste and are therefore not a total solution, but can significantly reduce the quantity of waste.

There are many active reprocessing programs worldwide. Elements that have an atomic number greater than uranium are called transuranic "beyond uranium". Because of their long half-lives, TRUW is disposed more cautiously than either low- or intermediate-level waste. In the U. Under U. The U. A theoretical way to reduce waste accumulation is to phase out current reactors in favour of Generation IV reactors , which output less waste per power generated.

Fast reactors can theoretically consume some existing waste.

The UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority published a position paper in on the progress on approaches to the management of separated plutonium, which summarises the conclusions of the work that NDA shared with UK government. Of particular concern in nuclear waste management are two long-lived fission products, Tc half-life , years and I half-life The most troublesome transuranic elements in spent fuel are Np half-life two million years and Pu half-life 24, years. This usually necessitates treatment, followed by a long-term management strategy involving storage, disposal or transformation of the waste into a non-toxic form.

In the US, waste management policy completely broke down with the ending of work on the incomplete Yucca Mountain Repository. A Blue Ribbon Commission was appointed by President Obama to look into future options for this and future waste. A deep geological repository seems to be favored. Long-term storage of radioactive waste requires the stabilization of the waste into a form which will neither react nor degrade for extended periods.

It is theorized that one way to do this might be through vitrification. Calcination involves passing the waste through a heated, rotating tube. The purposes of calcination are to evaporate the water from the waste, and de-nitrate the fission products to assist the stability of the glass produced.

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The 'calcine' generated is fed continuously into an induction heated furnace with fragmented glass. As a melt, this product is poured into stainless steel cylindrical containers "cylinders" in a batch process. When cooled, the fluid solidifies "vitrifies" into the glass. After being formed, the glass is highly resistant to water. After filling a cylinder, a seal is welded onto the cylinder head. The cylinder is then washed. After being inspected for external contamination, the steel cylinder is stored, usually in an underground repository.

In this form, the waste products are expected to be immobilized for thousands of years. The glass inside a cylinder is usually a black glossy substance. All this work in the United Kingdom is done using hot cell systems. Sugar is added to control the ruthenium chemistry and to stop the formation of the volatile RuO 4 containing radioactive ruthenium isotopes. In the West, the glass is normally a borosilicate glass similar to Pyrex , while in the former Soviet Union it is normal to use a phosphate glass.

Bulk vitrification uses electrodes to melt soil and wastes, which are then buried underground. It is common for medium active wastes in the nuclear industry to be treated with ion exchange or other means to concentrate the radioactivity into a small volume. The much less radioactive bulk after treatment is often then discharged. For instance, it is possible to use a ferric hydroxide floc to remove radioactive metals from aqueous mixtures. The Australian Synroc synthetic rock is a more sophisticated way to immobilize such waste, and this process may eventually come into commercial use for civil wastes it is currently being developed for US military wastes.

The zirconolite and perovskite are hosts for the actinides. The strontium and barium will be fixed in the perovskite. The caesium will be fixed in the hollandite. The time frame in question when dealing with radioactive waste ranges from 10, to 1,, years, [62] according to studies based on the effect of estimated radiation doses. Long term behavior of radioactive wastes remains a subject for ongoing research projects in geoforecasting.

Dry cask storage typically involves taking waste from a spent fuel pool and sealing it along with an inert gas in a steel cylinder, which is placed in a concrete cylinder which acts as a radiation shield. It is a relatively inexpensive method which can be done at a central facility or adjacent to the source reactor.

The waste can be easily retrieved for reprocessing. The process of selecting appropriate deep final repositories for high level waste and spent fuel is now under way in several countries with the first expected to be commissioned some time after The goal is to permanently isolate nuclear waste from the human environment. Many people remain uncomfortable with the immediate stewardship cessation of this disposal system, suggesting perpetual management and monitoring would be more prudent.

Because some radioactive species have half-lives longer than one million years, even very low container leakage and radionuclide migration rates must be taken into account. A review of the Swedish radioactive waste disposal program by the National Academy of Sciences found that country's estimate of several hundred thousand years—perhaps up to one million years—being necessary for waste isolation "fully justified.

Ocean floor disposal of radioactive waste has been suggested by the finding that deep waters in the North Atlantic Ocean do not present an exchange with shallow waters for about years based on oxygen content data recorded over a period of 25 years. While these approaches all have merit and would facilitate an international solution to the problem of disposal of radioactive waste, they would require an amendment of the Law of the Sea. Article 1 Definitions , 7. The proposed land-based subductive waste disposal method disposes of nuclear waste in a subduction zone accessed from land and therefore is not prohibited by international agreement.

This method has been described as the most viable means of disposing of radioactive waste, [77] and as the state-of-the-art as of in nuclear waste disposal technology. This approach has the merits of providing jobs for miners who would double as disposal staff, and of facilitating a cradle-to-grave cycle for radioactive materials, but would be inappropriate for spent reactor fuel in the absence of reprocessing, due to the presence of highly toxic radioactive elements such as plutonium within it.

Deep borehole disposal is the concept of disposing of high-level radioactive waste from nuclear reactors in extremely deep boreholes. Deep borehole disposal seeks to place the waste as much as 5 kilometres 3. In January , Cumbria county council rejected UK central government proposals to start work on an underground storage dump for nuclear waste near to the Lake District National Park.

The individual-protection and human intrusion standards set a limit of 15 millirem per year to a reasonably maximally exposed individual, who would be among the most highly exposed members of the public. The groundwater protection standard is consistent with EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act standards, which the Agency applies in many situations as a pollution prevention measure. The disposal standards were to apply for a period of 10, years after the facility is closed.

Dose assessments were to continue beyond 10, years and be placed in DOE's Environmental Impact Statement , but were not subject to a compliance standard. The 10, year period for compliance assessment is consistent with EPA's generally applicable standards developed under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. It also reflects international guidance regarding the level of confidence that can be placed in numerical projections over very long periods of time. Shortly after the EPA first established these standards in , the nuclear industry, several environmental and public interest groups, and the State of Nevada challenged the standards in court.

In July , the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found in favor of the Agency on all counts except one: the 10, year regulatory time frame. The court ruled that EPA's 10,year compliance period for isolation of radioactive waste was not consistent with National Academy of Sciences NAS recommendations and was too short.

EPA published in the Federal Register a final rule in The new rule limits radiation doses from Yucca Mountain for up to 1,, years after it closes. Within that regulatory time frame, the EPA has two dose standards that would apply based on the number of years from the time the facility is closed. This is protection at the level of the most stringent radiation regulations in the U.

EPA's rule requires the Department of Energy to show that Yucca Mountain can safely contain wastes, considering the effects of earthquakes, volcanic activity , climate change , and container corrosion , over one million years. The formation that makes up Yucca Mountain was created by several large eruptions from a caldera volcano and is composed of alternating layers of ignimbrite welded tuff , non-welded tuff, and semi-welded tuff.

The tuff surround the burial sites is expected to protect human health as it provides a natural barrier to the radiation. The volcanic tuff at Yucca Mountain is appreciably fractured and movement of water through an aquifer below the waste repository is primarily through fractures. Some site opponents assert that, after the predicted containment failure of the waste containers, these cracks may provide a route for movement of radioactive waste that dissolves in the water flowing downward from the desert surface.

The area around Yucca Mountain received much more rain in the geologic past and the water table was consequently much higher than it is today, though well below the level of the repository. Nevada ranks fourth in the nation for current seismic activity. Analysis of the available data in indicates that, since , there have been seismic events of magnitude greater than 2. DOE has stated that seismic and tectonic effects on the natural systems at Yucca Mountain will not significantly affect repository performance. Yucca Mountain lies in a region of ongoing tectonic deformation, but the deformation rates are too slow to significantly affect the mountain during the 10,year regulatory compliance period.

Rises in the water table caused by seismic activity would be, at most, a few tens of meters and would not reach the repository. The fractured and faulted volcanic tuff that Yucca Mountain comprises reflects the occurrence of many earthquake-faulting and strong ground motion events during the last several million years, and the hydrological characteristics of the rock would not be changed significantly by seismic events that may occur in the next 10, years.

The engineered barrier system components will reportedly provide substantial protection of the waste from seepage water, even under severe seismic loading. In September , it was discovered that the Bow Ridge fault line ran underneath the facility, hundreds of feet east of where it was originally thought to be located, beneath a storage pad where spent radioactive fuel canisters would be cooled before being sealed in a maze of tunnels.

The discovery required several structures to be moved several hundred feet further to the east, and drew criticism from Robert R. Loux, then head of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects , who argues that Yucca administrators should have known about the fault line's location years prior, and called the movement of the structures "just-in-time engineering. The concern is that, in an earthquake, the unanchored casks of nuclear waste material awaiting burial at Yucca Mountain could be sent into a "chaotic melee of bouncing and rolling juggernauts ".

While the routes in Nevada would have been public, in the other states the planned routes, dates and times of transport would have been secret for security reasons. State and tribal representatives would have been notified before shipments of spent nuclear fuel entered their jurisdictions.

Within Nevada, the planned primary mode of transportation was via rail through the Caliente Corridor. At this point, it turns south. Other options that were being considered included a rail route along the Mina corridor. This rail route would have originated at the Fort Churchill Siding rail line, near Wabuska. At Oasis Valley, the rail line would have turned north-northeast towards Yucca Mountain.

Use of this rail corridor by the Department of Energy would have required permission from the Walker River Paiute Tribe in order to cross their land. Since the early s, the U. This safety record is comparable to the worldwide experience where more than 70, metric tons of spent nuclear fuel have been transported since — an amount approximately equal to the total amount of spent nuclear fuel that would have been shipped to Yucca Mountain.

Robert Halstead, who was a transportation adviser to the state of Nevada since , stated regarding transportation of the high level waste, "They would heavily affect cities like Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, in the Chicago metropolitan area, in Omaha. And the same cities would be affected by rail shipments as well. In October , a senator from Utah argued that transferring nuclear waste from other states to Yucca Mountain on state highways and railways could be a health hazard. Archaeological surveys have found evidence that Native Americans used the immediate vicinity of Yucca Mountain on a temporary or seasonal basis.

They believe that these conclusions overlook traditional accounts of farming that occurred before European contact. Yucca Mountain and surrounding lands were central in the lives of the Southern Paiute , Western Shoshone , and Owens Valley Paiute and Shoshone peoples, who shared them for religious ceremonies, resource uses, and social events. Starting in , the Obama administration attempted to close the Yucca Mountain repository, despite current US law that designates Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste repository.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also went along with the administration's closure plan. Various state and Congressional entities attempted to challenge the administration's closure plans, by statute and in court. Most recently, in August , a US Court of Appeals decision told the NRC and the Obama administration that they must either "approve or reject the Energy Department's application for [the] never-completed waste storage site at Nevada's Yucca Mountain.

Yucca Mountain as a repository is off the table. What we're going to be doing is saying, let's step back. We realize that we know a lot more today than we did 25 or 30 years ago. The NRC is saying that the dry cask storage at current sites would be safe for many decades, so that gives us time to figure out what we should do for a long-term strategy. We will be assembling a blue-ribbon panel to look at the issue. We're looking at reactors that have a high-energy neutron spectrum that can actually allow you to burn down the long-lived actinide waste.

These are fast-neutron reactors. There's others: a resurgence of hybrid solutions of fusion fission where the fusion would impart not only energy, but again creates high-energy neutrons that can burn down the long-lived actinides. Some of the waste is already vitrified. There is, in my mind, no economical reason why you would ever think of pulling it back into a potential fuel cycle.

So one could well imagine—again, it depends on what the blue-ribbon panel says—one could well imagine that for a certain classification for a certain type of waste, you don't want to have access to it anymore, so that means you could use different sites than Yucca Mountain, such as salt domes.

Once you put it in there, the salt oozes around it. These are geologically stable for a 50 to million year time scale. The trouble with those type of places for repositories is you don't have access to it anymore. But say for certain types of waste you don't want to have access to it anymore—that's good. It's a very natural containment. So the real thing is, let's get some really wise heads together and figure out how you want to deal with the interim and long-term storage.

Yucca was supposed to be everything to everybody, and I think, knowing what we know today, there's going to have to be several regional areas. In , the U. On April 13, , the state of Washington filed suit to prevent the closing of Yucca Mountain, since this would slow efforts to clean up Hanford Nuclear Reservation. In March , Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a bill requiring three-fourths of that money to be given back to customers, and the remainder to the companies for storage improvements.

In August , the U. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to either "approve or reject the Energy Department's application for [the] never-completed waste storage site at Nevada's Yucca Mountain. The court opinion stated that "The president may not decline to follow a statutory mandate or prohibition simply because of policy objections. At the same time, the staff also stated that NRC should not authorize actual construction of the repository until the requirements for land and water rights were met and a supplement to DOE's environmental impact statement EIS was finished.

Its was intended to establish a fully independent Nuclear Waste Administration NWA which would develop nuclear waste storage and disposal facilities. Construction of such facilities would require the consent of the state, local, and tribal governments which may be affected. The NWA would be required to complete a mission plan to open a pilot storage facility by for nuclear waste from non-operating reactors and other "emergency" deliveries called "priority waste".

The goal would be to have a storage facility for waste from operating reactors or other "non-priority waste" available by , and an actual permanent repository by the end of The current disposal limit of 70, metric tons for the nation's initial permanent repository would be repealed. Any nuclear waste fees collected after S was enacted would be held in a newly established Working Capital Fund.

The Nuclear Waste Administration would be allowed to draw from that fund any amounts needed to carry out S. The project would consolidate nuclear waste across the United States in Yucca Mountain, which had been stockpiled in local locations since On May 11, , the bill H.

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The Hill clarified that the bill would "set a path forward for the Department of Energy DOE to resume the process of planning for and building the southern Nevada site, transfer land to the DOE for it, ease the federal funding mechanism and allow DOE to build or license a temporary site to store waste while the Yucca project is being planned and built.

All Nevada representatives opposed the bill. The measure afterwards was scheduled to go to Senate, which if passed, would require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to decide on the matter within 30 months.


Titus proposed an amendment which would have required long-term storage to be kept in locales that consented, which was rejected by the house In June , the Trump administration and some members of Congress again began proposing using Yucca Mountain, with Nevada Senators raising opposition. Nevada National Security Site officials in April assured the public that the Device Assembly Facility on the Nevada security site was safe from earthquake threats.

In contrast, Nevada officials claimed seismic activity in the region made it unsafe for the storage of nuclear waste. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The proposed design [1]. This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. February Main article: Yucca Mountain. December Archived from the original on May 6, Retrieved June 2, The New York Times. May 9, Archived from the original PDF on September 30, The nuclear materials of primary interest in weapons and INDs are plutonium, primarily plutonium and plutonium, and HEU.

Plutonium can be detected through passive gamma-ray and neutron monitoring, but HEU is difficult to detect passively owing to its low specific activity, low spontaneous fission rate, and low-energy gamma-ray emissions. Passive monitoring of these materials requires large-area detectors and relatively long exposure durations for acceptable sensitivity. HEU can be detected by active monitoring using, for example, neutron detectors and pulsed neutron sources. Additionally, both HEU and plutonium can be detected indirectly by gamma radiography, which is sensitive to high-atomic-number materials.

Active systems are more complex and costly than passive detectors, however, and they emit radiation. Consequently, there may be radiological safety issues associated with their use in populated areas. The full deployment of a national detection network would be an expensive proposition given the large numbers of international transit points, entry points into the United States, and critical U. Although sensor technologies now exist for such deployments, it will be a daunting technical challenge to integrate these technologies into effective and reliable detection systems—in particular, to sort through the thousands of hits that would be re-.

A poorly designed system would likely be turned off or ignored by frustrated operators and responders once the false alarms reached even moderate levels. The state of the art for such detection systems has not yet advanced to the levels needed to make a national deployment feasible. A careful analysis of likely SNM transport routes, however, would likely reveal a smaller number of choke points where well-designed detection systems could be effectively deployed.

Such choke points might include the following:. Major global cargo-container ports, especially at cargo entry and transfer portals;. Major choke points in the U. The deployment of sensor systems even at a large number of such choke points would not guarantee the detection of SNM in transit—determined terrorists probably could find ways to overcome such systems by using secondary entry points and roads or by using heavy shielding.

But the deployment of a well-tested, national integrated detection network would be a powerful component of the layered homeland defense system. A national detection network could consist of several types of sensors: large numbers of simple counters that indicate the presence of radiation, backed up by smaller numbers of spectroscopic instruments to identify specific isotopic signatures. The technical challenge for the deployment of both types of sensors is the differentiation of signals of interest from the background of naturally occurring radioactivity and medical and industrial radioisotopes.

There is a surprising lack of comprehensive data on the normal variations in background and radioactivity in general commerce. These instruments could form the first layer of detection defense for illicit radioisotopes especially strong gamma emitters and could also be used by emergency personnel when responding to suspected radiological incidents. Fixed instruments at airports or other. The objectives of these evaluations should be to provide 1 technical feedback to system developers that can be used to improve system design and performance; 2 improved definition of background signals at potential monitoring sites and radioisotopes in general commerce that can be used to improve system capabilities to detect illicit materials in transport; and 3 experience in detecting materials in transport that can be used to develop protocols for identifying false positives and evaluating and responding to actual threats.

Additionally, some priority should be given to the development of inexpensive portable detectors with spectroscopic discrimination capabilities so that such detector systems could be more widely deployed. As mentioned above in this chapter, future efforts to develop INDs may be harder to detect and disrupt because such efforts are likely to involve multiple organizations spread across the globe. Detection of such efforts will require the ability to assemble intelligence data from many disparate sources and to find patterns and connectivity among large amounts of seemingly unrelated data.

This will require the development of new databases, for example, databases that can be used to track and attribute smuggling efforts; enhancements to the connectivity of various kinds of databases e. Responses to nuclear and radiological attacks fall into two distinct categories that could require very different types of governmental actions: 1 attacks involving the detonation of a nuclear weapon or IND and 2 attacks involving RDDs.

The first type of attack would likely involve massive property destruction and loss of life, making it difficult to mount an effective emergency response, at least over the short term. An emergency response action lasting months to years might be required in the wake of such an attack. The second type of attack would likely involve localized loss of life and no immediate danger to surrounding populations or property, but the potential for misinformation and public panic would be high. An emergency response action lasting weeks to months might be required, although longer-term cleanup might be needed for large RDD attacks.

The worst scenarios involving nuclear power plants fall somewhere between these two categories, but, as noted in the classified annex, studies have not yet determined how credible these scenarios are. This plan devotes only three paragraphs to radiological sabotage and terrorism, giving the Federal Bureau of Investigation the lead for investigating such acts and calling on other agencies, especially the designated lead federal agency, to assist the bureau in its investigative mission. The correctness of this conclusion seems questionable given the attacks that might be envisaged in light of September A terrorist attack could be much larger in magnitude than other events anticipated under this emergency plan.

Such an attack could require large numbers of rescuers and medical personnel trained to deal with radiological emergencies; the ability to manage large populations in contaminated urban areas for long periods of time, potentially years; the ability to predict in real time the spread of radioactive contamination in debris clouds and provide this information to potentially affected populations in real time so that appropriate actions can be taken; and timely and effective cleanup capabilities.

The current plan does not appear to provide the guidance needed to ensure this type of response in the case of nuclear terrorist attack. Accessed on April 22, This plan should, at a minimum, address the following needs: 1 rapid mobilization of nationwide medical resources to cope with burns, physical trauma, and poorly characterized outcomes of exposure to radiation; 2 rapid airlift of field hospitals to the affected area; 3 means to provide the affected public with basic information on protection against radiation and fallout; 4 technical procedures for decontaminating people, land, and buildings; and 5 protection of citizens and foreign nationals from vigilante attacks.

This plan should be mock exercised and, if required, incident site monitoring capabilities should be enhanced. Steps also should be taken to ensure that federal decision makers are familiar with this plan. Should a nuclear or radiological attack occur, response effectiveness could be enhanced through public education efforts carried out well in advance of a nuclear or radiological attack.

These efforts could include the stocking of potassium iodide pills by individuals to reduce the potential for thyroid cancers from releases of radioactive iodine. As the history of the Cold War has shown, the most effective defense against attacks with nuclear weapons is a policy of nuclear retaliation. This past success suggests that the United States may be able to deter some future state-supported or state-sponsored nuclear and radiological terrorist acts by announcing in advance that it will retaliate by whatever means deemed appropriate, including the use of nuclear weapons, against states and terrorist groups responsible for nuclear or radiological attacks against U.

The analogy between the Cold War and post-September 11 worlds is imperfect in that terrorist activity is dispersed geographically and may not be politically motivated. A doctrine of assured retaliation probably would not deter fanatical terrorist groups, but it may discourage states from providing such groups with aid and comfort. Attribution is a difficult technical challenge—ideally, one would want to know both the characteristics of the weapon used in the attack and its country of origin. The former can be determined through careful analysis of blast debris; the latter might be determined by linking this information with intelligence on thefts, smuggling, and weapons development efforts by states and terrorist groups developed through the data-mining techniques discussed above.

The goal is to develop the capability to perform a postdetonation debris analysis and to draw conclusions on the design and performance after an attack. The technology for developing this capability exists but needs to be assembled, an effort that is expected to take several years. The events of September 11 suggest that physical and operational changes at some NPPs may be needed to mitigate vulnerabilities to attacks from the air using a large commercial airliner or a smaller aircraft loaded with high explosives and, possibly, attacks from the ground using HE projectiles.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Electric Power Research Institute assessments of nuclear power plant vulnerabilities to airliner attacks should be completed as soon as possible, and follow-on work to identify vulnerabilities on a plant-by-plant basis, including vulnerabilities to air attacks by small craft loaded with high explosives or to ground attacks by high-explosive projectiles, should be undertaken as soon as these initial studies are completed.

If these assessments continue to show that important vulnerabilities exist, then steps should be taken to reduce such vulnerabilities as soon as possible. Some possible changes are listed in the classified annex. This list is by no means exhaustive, and an effective remedy can be applied at a particular reactor only after a careful analysis of risks and benefits, taking into account the comparative risk reduction that could be achieved by devoting resources to hardening nuclear plants versus other large industrial facilities.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the states with agreements with that agency should tighten regulations for obtaining and possessing radiological sources that could be used in terrorist attacks i. Additionally, licensees possessing large sources should be encouraged to substitute nonradioactive sources compact accelerators, electron beams, and x-ray generators when economically feasible.

Other important counters to RDDs are public education, emergency responder training, and preparation of leaders to deal quickly and effectively with terrorist acts. As noted above, the likely aim of an RDD attack would be to spread fear and panic and cause disruption. Recovery would therefore depend on how such an attack is handled by first responders, political leaders, the media, and general members of the public. In general, public fear of radiation and radioactive materials appears to be disproportionate to the actual hazards.

Although hazardous at high doses, ionizing radiation is a weak carcinogen, and its effects on biological systems are better known than those of most, if not all, toxic chemicals. Federal standards that limit human exposure to environmental ionizing radiation, which are based on the linear, nonthreshold dose-response relationship, 14 are conservative and protec-. That is, mutagenic cell mutation and carcinognic cancer effects are assumed to increase linearly with radiation dose, with no threshold at low doses below which there is zero effect.

Education and training can serve as an effective counter to future RDD attacks. To this end, the committee recommends that the following actions be implemented:. As part of this training, responders should be provided with simple but effective radiation-monitoring devices, trained in their use, and told whom to contact for expert assistance, if needed. The Office of Homeland Security should take the lead for this effort and should work with independent credible organizations to develop these kits. Such a response needs to be prepared and rehearsed in advance to avoid the kind of national leadership confusion that followed the anthrax attacks on Washington, D.

The Department of Energy sponsors research on low-dose radiation effects within the Office of Science and also supports the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, which is conducting a long-term longitudinal study of Japanese atomic bomb survivors.

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The BEIR-VII study is currently in progress, and its objective is to determine the mathematical relationship between health risks and radiation dose for low levels of ionizing radiation. The designation of a lead agency also will require approval from the U. Department of Energy. Commercial Nuclear Fuel from U. Energy Information Administration. Nuclear Generation of Electricity. Gonzalez, A. National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements. Bethesda, Md. Private Fuel Storage. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. List of Power Reactor Units. Vulnerabilities abound in U.

The openness and efficiency of our key infrastructures — transportation, information and telecommunications systems, health systems, the electric power grid, emergency response units, food and water supplies, and others — make them susceptible to terrorist attacks. Making the Nation Safer discusses technical approaches to mitigating these vulnerabilities. In each of these areas, there are recommendations on how to immediately apply existing knowledge and technology to make the nation safer and on starting research and development programs that could produce innovations that will strengthen key systems and protect us against future threats.

A long term commitment to homeland security is necessary to make the nation safer, and this book lays out a roadmap of how science and engineering can assist in countering terrorism. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

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Calculated Risks

Looking for other ways to read this? No thanks. Introduction Page 39 Share Cite. Suggested Citation: "2. Page 40 Share Cite.

Page 41 Share Cite. Page 42 Share Cite. TABLE 2. Page 43 Share Cite. Probability of Occurrence Technical and Policy Challenges Approaches to Mitigation Moderate over the next 5 years, with a high potential for surprise Theft or diversion may not require state assistance and may go undetected if theft occurs in Russia Stolen or diverted weapons could be converted for terrorist use HEU-based weapons smuggled into the United States could be difficult to detect and recover First responders may be killed or incapacitated by attack Improve indications and warnings capabilities Improve security of Russian and Pakistani nuclear weapons at storage sites and borders Accelerate deployment of sensor arrays at critical U.

Page 44 Share Cite. Page 45 Share Cite. Probability of Occurrence Technical and Policy Challenges Approaches to Mitigation Moderate over the next 5 years, with a high potential for surprise Theft or diversion may not require state assistance and may go undetected Crude HEU weapons could be fabricated without state assistance HEU-based INDs smuggled into the United States could be difficult to detect and recover First responders may be killed or incapacitated by attack Improve indications and warnings capabilities Consolidate SNM at Russian sites, improve inventory controls, and improve security at sites and borders Accelerate blend-down of Russian HEU Accelerate the development and deployment of SNM sensor arrays at critical U.

Page 46 Share Cite. Page 47 Share Cite. Page 48 Share Cite. Radiation Sources and Radioactive Waste. Page 49 Share Cite. Page 50 Share Cite.