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Sound risk analysis should be a key tool in setting priorities for the cooperative program. The committee considers the current IAEA and DOE categorizations of risks associated with IRSs to be a reasonable starting point for risk assessment. But risk depends on many factors that have not yet been adequately incorporated into national or international efforts. These factors include not only total activity and half-life but also portability, dispensability, prevalence of use, and public perceptions and fear of various radionuclides, such as plutonium. At present, only a small fraction of the millions of existing IRSs are generally considered to be high risk, but thousands of other IRSs should be of great concern when taking into account all of the risk factors. Several institutions in the United States and abroad are carrying out research on broadly based quantitative analyses of risks, and the Russian scientific community has a strong tradition in risk analysis. U.S. and Russian experts should work together to develop risk models that take into account the foregoing and other factors, which could provide an improved basis for targeting resources to problems of greatest concern.

In summary, only the Russian government has the capability to strengthen the many weaknesses in the security system for IRSs. Nevertheless, DOE and other external partners are in a good position to encourage the Russian government to develop a more comprehensive approach to ensure adequate life-cycle management of IRSs than currently exists. The development of such a comprehensive approach will be the measure of DOE’s success.

NOTES

  

1. Committee on Opportunities for U.S.-Russian Collaboration in Combating Radiological Terrorism. 2007. U.S.-Russian Collaboration in Combating Radiological Terrorism. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. Available online at www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11801. Members of the authoring committee included John F. Ahearne (chair), director, Ethics Program, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society; Laurin Dodd, managing director, Chernobyl Shelter Implementation Program (SIP), Project Management Unit, Bechtel International Systems, Inc.; Siegfried S. Hecker, director emeritus, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and visiting professor, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University; Darleane C. Hoffman, professor of the Graduate School, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, and faculty senior scientist, Nuclear Science Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Roger Kasperson, research professor, George Perkins Marsh Institute, Clark University; and Leroy E. Leonard (consultant to the committee), project leader, Off-Site Source Recovery Project, Los Alamos National Laboratory.

  

2. Category 1 sources “if not safely managed or securely protected would be likely to cause permanent injury to a person who handled [them], or were otherwise in contact with [them], for more than a few minutes. It would probably be fatal to be close to this amount of unshielded material for a period of a few minutes to an hour.” These sources are typically used in practices such as radioisotope thermoelectric generators, irradiators, and radiation teletherapy.

Category 2 sources, “if not safely managed or securely protected, could cause permanent injury to a person who handled [them], or were otherwise in contact with [them], for a short time (minutes to hours). It could possibly be fatal to be close to this amount of unshielded radioactive material for a period of hours to days.” These sources are typically used in practices such as industrial gamma radiography, high dose rate brachytherapy, and medium dose rate brachytherapy.



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