Congress warns dirty bomb material is not secure enough

Radioactive material left over from chemotherapy treatments, science experiments and construction. This is the stuff that terrorists could use to make a dirty bomb or contaminate an entire water supply. According to Congress, this kind of material is currently out there and not secure enough to ensure that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. To counter that, Tuesday Sen. Tom Carper (D) introduced an amendment to try to improve security saying, “far too vulnerable to theft or sabotage by terrorist or others wishing to do us harm.”

Salisbury University Geosciences Professor Dr. Tom Cawthern told 47 ABC that even though this radioactive material has already been used, it’s still dangerous.

“The waste that’s generated from that is still radioactive and that radioactive material needs to be disposed of in a proper way,” Cawthern said.

Cawthern said this radioactive material could be stuffed into a pipe bomb and detonated, sending dangerous particles into the air bomb radius and beyond.

“You would have gastrointestinal problems for sure and if it’s on the skin you would end up with kind of discoloration of the skins, burns, blisters that sort of stuff,” Cawthern said. 

Cawthern adds what would be even worse, would be in the radioactive material was used to contaminate a water source, such as a lake or reservoir.  Cawthern said that people would slowly get sick, but doctors would not be able to determine the cause, resulting in likely misdiagnosis of the cause. Eventually, after time the cause would be discovered, but by then the criminals would be long gone. 

If Carpers legislation were to pass it would require the National Nuclear Administration to present a strategy to Congress for securing all radioactive material in the United States.

In addition if would ensure that no one on the FBI’s “no fly list” would be able to gain clearance to access such materials. 

Of the 2,300 sites where these chemicals have been left,  a reported 800 are secured.

According to the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) there have already been several instances where radioactive material has been stolen from these sites. 

In two instances, the GAO found that convicted criminals had gained access to these sites.

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