Expert Calls for U.S. Steps to Avert Dirty-Bomb-Material Road Theft

A Dec. 4 view of the area in Tepojaco, Hidalgo state, in Mexico where the Volkswagen Worker truck transporting a 'teletherapy source' containing cobalt-60 was stolen by gunmen two days earlier. Vehicles in the United States carrying similarly dangerous radiological sources are at risk of being hijacked if more regulations are not put in place, a security expert said on Thursday.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
Jan. 24, 2014, 9:55 a.m.

A nuc­le­ar-se­cur­ity ex­pert is call­ing on the U.S. gov­ern­ment to bet­ter reg­u­late the private-sec­tor trans­port of ra­di­olo­gic­al sources that could be seized by ter­ror­ists.

“Giv­en the scale of dam­age that a ‘dirty-bomb’ could cause, it’s dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand why there are still no armed es­corts re­quired for cat­egory 1 trans­ports,” said Tom Biele­feld, a phys­i­cist and se­cur­ity-policy ex­pert at the Har­vard Uni­versity Belfer Cen­ter’s Pro­ject on Man­aging the Atom.

Cat­egory 1 sources are the most deadly of five ra­di­olo­gic­al cat­egor­ies ranked by the In­ter­na­tion­al Atom­ic En­ergy Agency. In­di­vidu­als who come in­to close con­tact to un­shiel­ded cat­egory 1 sources can die of ra­di­ation con­tam­in­a­tion with­in a few minutes to an hour, Biele­feld wrote in a Thursday ana­lys­is for the Bul­let­in of the Atom­ic Sci­ent­ists.

The 3,000 cur­ies of co­balt-60 con­tained in a briefly stolen truck last month in Mex­ico by armed thieves — who turned out to be more in­ter­ested in the truck than the cargo — was a cat­egory 1 source.

While not quite as dan­ger­ous as cat­egory 1 sources, cat­egory 2 ma­ter­i­als can cause ir­re­vers­ible in­jur­ies or even death if in­di­vidu­als are ex­posed to them for long enough.

Though the ra­dio­act­ive ma­ter­i­al in the Mex­ico case even­tu­ally was loc­ated and re­trieved, there is a chance that sim­il­ar or more dan­ger­ous in­cid­ents could take place in the United States, said Biele­feld.

He offered a num­ber of sug­ges­tions for lim­it­ing the risk of a ter­ror­ist group seiz­ing cat­egory 1 sources and oth­er lower-grade ra­dio­act­ive ma­ter­i­als while they are be­ing trans­por­ted by vehicle across the coun­try, in­clud­ing:

— A re­quire­ment by the U.S. Nuc­le­ar Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion that a “real-time loc­a­tion-track­ing sys­tem” be in­stalled in all vehicles trans­port­ing either cat­egory 1 or cat­egory 2 sources;

— A man­date in all 50 U.S. states that trucks trans­port­ing cat­egory 1 sources have an armed es­cort;

— As­sist­ance by states to ra­dio­act­ive trans­port li­censees in identi­fy­ing se­cure park­ing areas where drivers can safely rest;

— Bet­ter train­ing of truck drivers in how to re­spond, should their vehicles come un­der at­tack; and

— Out­fit­ting trucks with in­ex­pens­ive se­cur­ity devices, such as vehicle-dis­abling sys­tems and duress but­tons.

“On the road, there are few­er tech­nic­al pro­tec­tion meas­ures avail­able than in­side build­ings, so se­cur­ity de­pends even more on the people in charge: the drivers,” Biele­feld said. “They must be vi­gil­ant and pre­pared. This is primar­ily the re­spons­ib­il­ity of their bosses, who, in turn, must be able to rely on ad­equate rules and spe­cif­ic guid­ance from the reg­u­lat­or.”

What We're Following See More »
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
10 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Variety Looks at How Michelle Obama Has Leveraged Pop Culture
11 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

“My view is, first you get them to laugh, then you get them to listen," says Michelle Obama in a new profile in Variety. "So I’m always game for a good joke, and I’m not so formal in this role. There’s very little that we can’t do that people wouldn’t appreciate.” According to writer Ted Johnson, Mrs. Obama has leveraged the power of pop culture far beyond her predecessors. "Where are the people?" she asks. "Well, they’re not reading the op-ed pieces in the major newspapers. They’re not watching Sunday morning news talk shows. They’re doing what most people are doing: They are watching TV.”

Source:
QUESTIONS OVER IMMIGRATION POLICY
Trump Cancels Rallies
18 hours ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Source:
‘STRATEGY AND MESSAGING’
Sean Hannity Is Also Advising Trump
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”

Source:
THE SHAKE-UP CONTINUES
RNC’s Spicer to Work from Trump HQ
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump's campaign and the Republican party will coordinate more closely going forward, with the GOP's top communicator and chief strategist Sean Spicer increasingly working out of Trump campaign headquarters, the campaign confirmed Sunday."

Source:
×