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Global Security Newswire

Medical Industry Resists Phasing Out Radioactive Material

May 13, 2014

Government efforts to eliminate the commercial use of a radioactive material deemed a security risk have run into opposition from the medical sector.

The Obama administration announced earlier this year that it would work to phase out commercial applications of a number of radioactive substances that could be used to build a so-called "dirty bomb." Such a weapon would use conventional explosives to disperse poisonous radioactive material over a wide area.

Among the common commercial substances targeted for elimination is cesium chloride. The government is trying to convince hospitals and blood banks in the country to cease using irradiator machines that contain cesium chloride and instead use X-ray irradiators to make sure blood is safe for transfusion. The government is weighing using grants and other inducements to encourage the move away from cesium chloride irradiators, unidentified officials and specialists told the Boston Globe for a Monday article.

 

In addition to being extremely radioactive, cesium chloride is also dissolvable in water. These characteristics make the material "a greater concern than other radiation sources," according to a 2008 finding by the National Research Council.

However, some medical professionals and companies are resisting the urged change on the grounds that the newer X-ray irradiators are too expensive and more prone too breaking down.

"X-ray irradiators break with regular abandon, so of course you have to buy two," said Jed Gorlin, vice president of medical and quality affairs at Innovative Blood Resources in St. Paul, Minn.

Miles Pomper, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said that financial motives are a significant contributing factor to the resistance.

"There are going to be winners and losers," Pomper said. "The people who only make cesium chloride aren't going to like it."

This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

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