NNSA: Securing Domestic Radioactive Material

Fact Sheet
Feb 1, 2011

The Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which has unique expertise in nuclear weapons and nuclear material, plays a key role in the U.S. government's comprehensive effort to secure vulnerable radiological material.

In April 2009, President Obama outlined an ambitious agenda to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years, calling the danger of a terrorist acquiring nuclear weapons "the most immediate and extreme threat to global security." In this year's State of the Union, he called the threat of nuclear weapons, "the greatest danger to the American people."    The President’s FY 2012 budget request provides the resources required to implement that agenda. It requests $2.5 billion in FY 2012 and $14.2 billion over the next five years to reduce the global nuclear threat by detecting, securing, safeguarding, disposing and controlling nuclear and radiological material, as well as promoting the responsible application of nuclear technology and science.

In addition to securing nuclear material around the world, NNSA plays a key role in the U.S. government's comprehensive effort to secure radiological material here at home. NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) oversees two programs aimed at securing radioactive materials in the United States.  NNSA/GTRI’s Domestic Material Protection program collaborates with partner sites like hospitals and universities to provide voluntary security enhancements to prevent terrorists from acquiring in-use radiological materials. NNSA/GTRI’s Domestic Radiological Material Removal Program removes radiological sources that are no longer being used for disposal or secure storage.

Taken together with the President’s commitment to partner with the international community to secure vulnerable nuclear and radiological material around the world, these domestic security programs demonstrate this Administration's commitment to protecting the American people from nuclear terrorism.

Upgraded Physical Security at Radiological Sites

There are thousands of civilian sites where radiological materials are used for legitimate and beneficial commercial, medical and research purposes. NNSA works in cooperation with federal, state and local agencies, and private industry to install security enhancements on high priority nuclear and radiological materials located at civilian sites in the United States.

These voluntary security enhancements complement but do not replace Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Agreement State increased control requirements.  Because the facilities do not have the resources to make these security upgrades, NNSA will fund the upgrades and initial maintenance if the facility agrees to take over all further maintenance.

In working to prevent the use of domestic radioactive sources in a terrorist attack, NNSA has successfully completed the following:

  • Identified more than 2,700 vulnerable buildings to date with high-priority radiological material in the United States.
  • As of February 28, 2011, completed NNSA security enhancements at 251 of these buildings, with the remainder aiming to be completed by 2025.
  • Identified more than 800 Cesium irradiators domestically, 238 received security enhancements to date using the NNSA-developed in-device delay (IDD) security technology.

Secured "Dirty Bomb" Material

  • NNSA/GTRI has an ongoing domestic program, the Off-Site Source Recovery Program (OSRP), to recover excess and unwanted sources from Nuclear Regulatory Commission or agreement state licensees. The Department has recovered over 27,000 disused and unwanted sources containing more than 800,000 curies of activity to date.

Provided Security-Related Training

  • NNSA is providing Alarm Response Training (ART) at the Y-12 Nuclear Security Complex in Tennessee to local law enforcement officers from across the country. As of February 28, 2011, the ART has trained 1118 officers.  In addition, off-site training has been conducted for 103 sites in more than a dozen major metropolitan cities.