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NNSA Supports Permanent Threat Reduction in Ukraine through Alternative Technology

December 04, 2014

Washington D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced the successful transfer of a  linear accelerator (LINAC), used for cancer therapy treatment, from the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital to the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology (KIPT) in Kharkiv, Ukraine.


In exchange for the shipment, Ukraine has agreed to disposition two of their aging Cobalt-60 (Co-60) teletherapy units. These units contain high-risk radioactive material that could be attractive for terrorists’ use in a dirty bomb.  Providing a non-isotopic alternative to the Co-60 teletherapy units supports NNSA’s comprehensive global campaign to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear and radiological material. NNSA has been at the forefront of the United States’ long history of cooperation with Ukraine and other international partners in the area of radiological security.  NNSA has also worked with Ukraine to provide physical security upgrades in 71 buildings that use and store radiological material and has removed more than 2,000 sources to secure storage.


The LINAC was identified and donated to Ukraine by the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital through the nonprofit group, Radiating Hope.  Radiating Hope identifies needs for radiation equipment through partnerships with organizations, such as KIPT, to facilitate donations that update and advance cancer care globally.


The delivery of the LINAC to KIPT in Ukraine will allow the healthcare professionals of the Kharkiv Regional Oncology Clinic (KROC) to provide state-of-the-art cancer treatment to patients in need. According to Dr. Kathryn Dusenbery, Department Head of Radiation Oncology at the University of Minnesota, this donation was important because "over half of all cancer patients are benefited by radiation therapy during the course of their disease. In many areas of the world, aging cobalt units are the only radiation option. Cobalt units have several disadvantages over linear accelerators including delivery of a higher skin dose, longer treatment times and less sharp treatment borders. This donation of a linear accelerator vastly improves cancer care to the patients in that region. "


KIPT explained that “the newly delivered Varian 2300 will allow substantial improvement of patient management, allow enhanced safety of radiation treatment due to shorter irradiation times compared to depleted teletherapy Co-60 machines, and permanently resolve security issues associated with Co-60 radiation sources. This project synergizes improved medical care with Ukrainian national security interests by replacing teletherapy units with alternative LINAC technology. One more new or used LINAC will allow the Kharkiv region to dispose of all Co-60 based units.”


"This operation is part of NNSA’s broad strategy to enhance our nation’s security by keeping dangerous nuclear and radiological material safe and secure,” said NNSA Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation David Huizenga. “This mission demonstrates how NNSA utilizes its unique expertise and technical resources to partner with government and non-governmental organizations to make our cities safer here and around the world.” NNSA plans to build upon this successful cooperation to replicate this model in other countries around the world.


NNSA, Argonne National Laboratory, the Department of State, and the nonprofit organization, Radiating Hope, jointly supported this mission.This initiative is part of a broader cooperative effort to help combat nuclear and radiological terrorism around the world. Converting or replacing isotopic devices with non-isotopic alternative technology achieves permanent threat reduction by decreasing the availability of high risk radioactive material.


For more information on NNSA's work to reduce and protect high-priority nuclear and radiological material click here.


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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 in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the 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.


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