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30 April 2009

NRC Directs Staff to Enhance Security of Cesium Chloride

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has directed the agency staff to continue enhancing the security of cesium chloride radiation sources, while encouraging research and further technological developments for alternative chemical forms of cesium-137. The Commission agreed with the staff’s position in a paper presented last November that near-term replacement of cesium chloride sources in existing blood, research, and calibration irradiators is not practicable and would be harmful to the delivery of medical care, research and emergency response capabilities.

Security controls already implemented over the past several years have significantly improved the security of these sources. However, the commission called for the NRC staff to continue exploring new ways to improve their security further. Those efforts are to include working with federal and state agencies to define criteria for a “dispersible source of concern” that could then be used to guide research efforts to develop an alternative form of cesium.

The NRC staff also held a two-day public forum in September 2008 that discussed alternative forms of cesium, alternative technologies, phase-out and transportation issues, additional enhanced security, and potential future requirements for use of the material. More than 200 people attended the forum. Written feedback following the forum overwhelmingly favored not rushing to replace cesium chloride sources because of the benefits they provide to the public.