Security of Radioactive Sources in Massachusetts

How Massachusetts is working to enhance the physical protection and control of radioactive materials

The Massachusetts Radiation Control Program (RCP) has been working with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and MA Radioactive Materials Licensees to enhance the physical protection and control of radioactive materials that could present the highest risk if used by a terrorist in a radiological dispersal device (RDD). An RDD, or "dirty bomb," consists of radioactive material that's been combined with a conventional explosive that will spread radioactive contamination when it is detonated. The intent behind using an RDD is to cause burn and blast injuries to the people nearest the site of the detonation, and widespread psychological impacts to others from the fear, panic, and social disruption from an anticipated overreaction to the radioactive material.

Within the context of homeland security, the RCP's emergency planning and preparedness activities have not been limited to post incident considerations alone. As enhancements to its routine regulatory and emergency response responsibilities, it has proactively been placing increased emphasis on preventing terrorist incidents from happening by including in its regulatory program increased "cradle-to-grave" security measures for radioactive materials. Some of these preventative measures include:

  • Supporting the National Source Tracking System administered by the NRC and the Department of Energy
  • Adopting and implementing responsible regulations for enhancing the security, safety and protection of the general public
  • Verifying the qualifications of license applicants and the physical source security and control methods that will be used before a license is granted
  • Adopting and enforcing increased requirements for the shipment, storage, use and disposal of radioactive material
  • Fingerprinting and criminal background checks on individuals granted access to certain radioactive material to prevent diversion
  • Inspecting to verify the adequacy of licensee's day-to-day regulatory controls and security
  • Taking prompt enforcement action when needed

A series of Orders and License amendments have been used to formalize the security measures licensees had to take in response to national security advisories issued by the NRC and health and safety concerns raised by the RCP and other Agreement States in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.