It is fortunate that these robust systems, built on the concept of in-depth defense, provide some level of protection against terrorist attacks. It is necessary periodically to verify the adequacy of security in certain vulnerable areas by analysis and taking into consideration evolving design-basis threats. There is, however, a consensus among the members of the nuclear community that nuclear facilities have robust safety and security systems in place.
An examination of various safety guides and codes reveals that insufficient attention has been paid to ensuring the security of radioactive sources. Radioactive sources are highly vulnerable, especially considering the fact that terrorist access to them would endanger global security. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) data on illicit trafficking in nuclear material highlights the need to further tighten controls at all points, including at international boundaries. Regrettably, confidence in the safety and security of nuclear fuel-cycle facilities does not seem to translate to the nonpower use of radioactive sources, such as in applications in hospitals, industries, and agriculture. The nonpower use of radioactive sources is so widespread and the variety and numbers of sources used is so large that ensuring safety and security will be a stupendous task. This is an area that requires much greater attention and control.
In India an independent organization called the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is responsible for monitoring and controlling the civilian use of radioactive sources, and ensuring their security. There is an elaborate registration process to authorize, track, and monitor sources to ensure their safety and security. The AERB has also sought and received help from technical personnel in far-flung national laboratories and state units. These persons help to identify and monitor locations where radioactive materials are in use.
Returning briefly to power plants, the systems and safety procedures in vogue, explained earlier, adopt internationally accepted design standards. Moreover, the procedures established for dealing with and reporting unusual safety-related occurrences, incidents, and accidents, and grouping them under various scales of severity are all well defined, established, and practiced meticulously. Global power plant operating groups exchange information on best practices. In contrast, there are no comparable institutional systems in place to deal with millions of radioactive sources that are used in civilian applications around the world. Reports indicate the presence of many orphaned sources. The need to secure and account for all radioactive sources from cradle to grave is of paramount importance. The need to ensure absolute control over such materials grows out of a concern not only for the health and safety of the public but also for the great risk of terrorists gaining access to them. The potential issue of dirty bombs is rather scary. While nuclear power plant security warrants attention and concern, we should not lose sight of the economic and cleanup costs and panic that could result from the detonation of dirty bombs that mix radiation sources with conventional explosives to spread radioactivity.
Physical protection plays an important role in ensuring the security of nuclear materials and facilities. The IAEA has played an active role in the development of codes, specifications, and operational procedures that deal in detail with the technical, regulatory, and licensing aspects of nuclear security. It has also conducted emergency drills. There is a need to draw up a national design-basis threat plan in line with the recommendations of the international guidelines and device security systems. Not only