NNSA Launches Unique Diagnostic Facility for Radiation Victims and Nuclear Emergency Response

Press Release
Mar 29, 2007

Determining the amount of radiation exposure can ultimately mean the difference between life and death for the victims.WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will announce tomorrow that it has added another resource to its emergency response capabilities at the formal dedication of a new facility to help identify radiation exposure levels. In the event of a nuclear or radiological accident or terrorist attack, NNSA's new Cytogenetics Biodosimetry Laboratory (CBL) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee will be able to help determine the amount of radiation that a potential victim has been exposed to so that physicians can better formulate treatment plans.

"Determining the amount of radiation exposure can ultimately mean the difference between life and death for the victims," said Joseph Krol, the head of NNSA's emergency operations. "This facility is absolutely unique within the civilian community and it will help to ensure that our nation is ready and able to respond to a nuclear emergency. We are very pleased that NNSA was able to provide the federal leadership necessary to re-establish this important national security capability."

Cytogenetic biodosimetry is a proven method for accurately estimating how much exposure a person has had to radiation. A cytogenetics laboratory operated at Oak Ridge until 1998, and after that the military had the nation's only cytogenetic capability. With the increased focus on nuclear terrorism since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, NNSA decided to re-establish civilian cytogenetic capabilities by constructing an improved laboratory. The new CBL was jointly funded by NNSA, the Department of Energy's Office of Worker Safety and Health, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

With the increased focus on nuclear terrorism since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, NNSA decided to re-establish civilian cytogenetic capabilities by constructing an improved laboratory.The new laboratory will be operated as part of NNSA's Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site (REAC/TS) within the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. REAC/TS is recognized both nationally and internationally as a leader in the management of medical accidents involving radiation. REAC/TS teams of experts are prepared and ready to respond immediately to any type of radiological accident or terrorist incident anywhere in the world. The teams provide treatment and medical consultation for injuries resulting from radiation exposure and contamination, as well as providing training to others.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Media contact(s):
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371