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NNSA Recovers Radiological Material from Mexico

July 28, 2015

The irradiators were loaded on the U.S. Air Force C-17 in Southern Mexico and flown back to a base in the United States.WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), in partnership with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), the U.S. Air Force (USAF), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the United Mexican States, has successfully completed the repatriation of three irradiators containing U.S.-origin radioactive sources from Mexico. For 30 years, these irradiators played a critical role in the eradication of a devastating livestock parasite, the screwworm.  The three irradiators contain more than 50,000 curies of cesium-137, a high-activity radioisotope that could be used in radiological dispersal devices (RDD).

“This announcement marks a significant achievement in collaboration with our Mexican partners to improve global nuclear and radiological security,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington. “This work is a reflection of our shared threat reduction and nuclear security goals.”

The irradiators were packaged and transported on a secure truck to an airport in Southern Mexico and then flown via USAF C-17 to an Air Force base in the United States. The shipment was then securely transported via truck to a permanent storage facility. Teams from Idaho National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Nevada National Security Site and the Savanah River Site supported this repatriation project for DOE/NNSA.

DOE/NNSA’s Office of Radiological Security (ORS) mission is to enhance global security by preventing radioactive materials from use in acts of terrorism. To achieve the mission, ORS protects radioactive sources used for vital medical, research, and commercial purposes; removes and disposes of disused radioactive sources; and reduces the global reliance on radioactive sources through the promotion of viable non-isotopic alternative technologies.

For a fact sheet on NNSA’s Radiological Security program, click here.