The non-partisan congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a scathing report on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s failure to protect the public from “Dirty Bombs” The GAO was chartered by Congress to investigate and audit how taxpayer dollars are spent by federal agencies.
This report is a bombshell
The new report is titled COMBATING NUCLEAR TERRORISM: NRC Needs to Take Additional Actions to Ensure the Security of High-Risk Radioactive Material otherwise known as Radiological Dispersal Devices (RDDs).
This is the first report to address the danger of “Dirty Bombs”
Simply put, a “Radiological Dispersal Device” or “RDD” is the government’s term for a dirty radioactive bomb. A Dirty Bomb does not create a nuclear explosion like the bomb that was used at Hiroshima, rather it uses radioactive material from spent nuclear fuel to poison land, drinking water, and the atmosphere. According to the GAO report, even a small RDD could cause up to $30 billion in economic damages and kill as many as 1,500 people.
A national security failure
The GAO report states that “NRC’s decision to not consider other criteria to assess the consequence of an RDD has resulted in security requirements that do not address the full risks presented by the danger that category 3 quantities of some radioactive material could be used in an RDD to cause significant socioeconomic consequences comparable to what could be caused by category 2 or category 1 quantities of material.”
According to the NRC, Category III Nuclear waste is “special nuclear material of low strategic significance” and is identified as more than 15 grams (about half an ounce) of enriched uranium or plutonium. If the enriched uranium and plutonium are fewer than a kilo (2.2 pounds), it remains classified as “Category III.”
How deadly is this stuff?
Plutonium is widely considered to be the deadliest stuff on earth. It remains lethal for at least 250,000 years. The uranium in spent nuclear fuel has a “half life” meaning it is half as deadly as when it was created, in the millions of years.
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