NRC Has Enhanced the Controls of Dangerous Radioactive Materials, but Vulnerabilities Remain
July 2016 | Report
Government Accountability Office

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has developed and deployed security measures and procedures to protect certain dangerous quantities of radioactive materials. This report describes regulatory gaps that increase the risk that licenses could be forged or that licensees could obtain materials in amounts greater than what is legally permitted. 

GAO: NNSA's Threat Assessment Process Could Be Improved
October 2015 | Report
Government Accountability Office

This study of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Over the Horizons (OTH) Initiative describes “how the NNSA assessed potential proliferation threats through its OTH initiative and assesses the limitations in the process” and “examines the extent to which the NNSA used information about potential threats… in Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation organization and planning.” The GAO then makes recommendations on future threat assessment processes.

Statement to Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation of David C. Maurer, Director of Homeland Security
October 2015 | Testimony
Government Accountability Office

In an update to 2014’s Combating Nuclear Smuggling: Risk-Informed Covert Assessments and Oversight of Corrective Actions Could Strengthen Capabilities at the Border, the GAO published the DHS Director’s testimony to Congress in October 2015. The testimony addresses the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s capacities for covert operations to assess air, land, and sea ports, those operations’ results, and corrective actions taken.

GAO, DOE Made Progress to Secure Vulnerable Nuclear Materials Worldwide, but Opportunities Exist to Improve Its Efforts
September 2015 | Report
Government Accountability Office

This GAO report evaluates DOE’s efforts to fulfill key activities under the President’s 2009 initiative to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years. It also highlights challenges DOE may face, including the failure to complete an inventory of U.S. plutonium overseas and to inspect 11 sites holding over 3,500 kilograms of U.S.-origin HEU.

IAEA Nuclear Security Report 2015
2015 | Report
International Atomic Energy Agency

This IAEA report discusses Agency activities in the area of nuclear security, including information on external users of the Incident and Trafficking Database, significant accomplishments, goals and priorities for the upcoming year, and recommended actions. It covers the period July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.

Study on Japan’s Nuclear Materials
September 2015 | Report
China Arms Control and Disarmament Association and China Institute of Nuclear Information and Economics

This report provides an overview of the nuclear material in Japan and analyzes the challenges posed by this inventory. It suggests a number of steps Japan could take to reduce safety, security, and proliferation risks, including enhancing the management of nuclear materials and adhering to its declared policy of “no excess plutonium.”

Department of Energy Tritium and Enriched Uranium Plan Through 2060
October 2015 | Report
Department of Energy

This DOE report summarizes plans and options for managing tritium and enriched uranium resources to satisfy U.S. national security requirements through 2060. It analyzes supply and demand scenarios, material use restrictions, and production capabilities and technologies necessary to meet demand. It notes that ensuring long-term supply of unobligated EU will require a dedicated effort that spans multiple programs.

Nuclear Power Plant Security and Vulnerabilities
January 2014 | Report
Congressional Research Service
By Anthony Andrews and Mark Holt

This CRS report outlines the vulnerabilities of domestic nuclear power plants to attack from outside forces. It notes that in 2007 the NRC updated the Design Basis Threat to mandate protection from more than one team of adversaries attacking from multiple entry points. The report also describes the threat posed by civilian aircraft, noting that NRC regulations require all new power plants to ensure that in the event of a crash the reactor core would stay cooled, but this requirement does not extend to existing reactors. (click here to view)

Report to Congress on the Security Inspection Program for Commercial Power Reactors and Category I Fuel Cycle Facilities: Results and Status Update
July 2013 | Report
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

"This report provides both an overview of the NRC’s security inspection and FOF programs and summaries of the results of those inspections. It describes the NRC’s communications and outreach activities with the public and other stakeholders (including other Federal agencies)" (click here to view)

Combating Nuclear Smuggling - Lessons Learned from Cancelled Radiation Portal Monitor Program Could Help Future Acquisitions
June 2013 | Report
U.S. Government Accountability Office

GAO did a review of the cancellation of the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal Monitor (ASP), a radiation monitor for trucks and cargo containers that failed to pass field tests in 2009 and 2010. The ASP set off too many false-alarms, detecting emissions from benign items such as kitty litter. After the program’s cancellation, DHS officials did not have a mechanism to do a “lessons learned” report, in order to help future projects. GAO recommended that DHS require lessons learned reports, specifically citing the importance of learning where our vulnerabilities and failures are on nuclear security issues. 

Nuclear Regulatory Commission 10 C.F.R 37, A New Rule to Protect Radioactive Material: Background, Summary, Views from the Field
December 2012 | Report
Congressional Research Service 
By Jonathan Medalia

This CRS report investigates the impacts of NRC rule 10 C.F.R 37. This rule is intended to regulate physical protection of “byproduct material,” specific types of radioactive material not including uranium or plutonium, which could be used in a dirty bomb. The rule increases physical protection during use and transit, and requires background investigations for persons handling significant quantities of this material. The report notes that this rule may prove burdensome for licensees, especially smaller facilities, but it does ensure a layered defense, which should increase overall security. Finally, it observes that there is still room for improvement on security, but deems the cost-benefit analysis a “political judgment. (click here to view)

Nuclear Nonproliferation: Additional Actions Needed to Improve Security of Radiological Sources at U.S. Medical Facilities
September 2012 | Report
U.S. Government Accountability Office

This GAO report examines the security of radiological material, specifically sources that could be used in a “dirty bomb” such as cesium-137, at hospitals in the United States. The study recommended that the NRC strengthen its security requirements for radiological material, although in response the NRC affirmed its belief that its security is adequate. The study also described NNSA efforts to increase security at hospitals for radiological material, although it noted that at the current rate all security upgrades will not be complete until 2025. The report expressed concern at the amount of vulnerable radiological material in U.S. hospitals, as well as the number of hospitals that require security upgrades, some of which local police departments consider “high risk.”

Special Report - Inquiry into the Security Breach at the National Nuclear Security Administration's Y-12 National Security Complex
August 2012 | Special Report
U.S. Department of Energy | Office of Inspector General | Office of Audits and Inspections

This is the official Department of Energy Inspector General report regarding the July 2012 break-in at the facility, in which protesters reached the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility inside the complex without being stopped by security. The report was commissioned days after the event, and it details the security breakdowns at Y-12 on the night of the break-in. It specifically cites failures to respond to alarms, maintain critical security equipment, understand security protocols, over-reliance on compensatory measures, bad contract management, and the presence of poor communications. It also made specific recommendations to the NNSA regarding how to improve security at the facility. (click here to view)

Proliferation Security Initiative
June 2012 | Report
Congressional Research Service
By Mary Beth Nikitin 

This CRS report describes the Proliferation Security Initiative, and provides updates on global participation and organization. It notes that the program receives bipartisan support, and that critics urge increased transparency, membership, and coordination, rather than cancellation. The report observes that President Obama called for the PSI to turn into a “durable international institution,” but currently the organization is informal and not legally-binding. Efforts to measure the effectiveness of the program have proven difficult, but the structure for cooperation that the program provides has the potential to assist interdiction efforts. (click here to view)

Further Actions Needed by U.S. Agencies to Secure Vulnerable Nuclear and Radiological Materials
March 2012 | Report
U.S. Government Accountability Office 

This GAO report provides an overview and update of President Obama’s 4-year initiative to secure all nuclear material. Drawing heavily from a December 2010 report on the same subject (titled “Nuclear Nonproliferation: Comprehensive U.S. Planning and Better Foreign Cooperation Needed to Secure Vulnerable Nuclear Materials Worldwide”), this report makes no new recommendations, although it does note that the government’s plan, as approved by the NSC, lacks details regarding the cost and scope of the work. It provides an overview of efforts by U.S. agencies to track nuclear material overseas, but also warns of coordination problems between agencies, specifically citing overlap and the fact that no agency takes a formal lead on the issue. 

U.S. Agencies Have Limited Ability to Account for, Monitor, and Evaluate the Security of U.S. Nuclear Material Overseas
September 2011 | Report
U.S. Government Accountability Office

The GAO authored a report assessing the capacity of U.S. agencies to track and account for U.S. nuclear material overseas. Of the approximately 17,500 kilograms of U.S. HEU overseas, DOE and NRC could only account for the location of 1,160 kilograms of it. The report also describes the role of DOE’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative in removing material, although it notes that only about one third of all material abroad is eligible to be repatriated. GAO recommends that NRC compile an inventory of all U.S. nuclear material abroad, and that NRC and State conduct annual inventory checks with all partners to ensure the location of this material is accurate.

"Dirty Bombs": Technical Background, Attack Prevention and Response, Issues for Congress
June 2011 | Report
Congressional Research Service
By Jonathan Medalia

This report outlines the danger posed by radiological dispersal devices (RDDs), as well as national- and international-level efforts to prevent RDD acquisition by terrorists. The likelihood of an RDD event has decreased due to the work of the NRC, NNSA, and IAEA, and the National Response Framework provides a comprehensive response plan to a domestic RDD incident. CRS also outlines the dilemmas facing congress, such as what weight Congress should give countering RDDs vs other CBRN weapons, if Congress should prioritize securing domestic or international radiological sources, and if cities should establish radiological detection systems. (click here to view)

Nuclear Nonproliferation: Comprehensive U.S. Planning and Better Foreign Cooperation Needed to Secure Vulnerable Nuclear Materials Worldwide
December 2010 | Report
U.S. Government Accountability Office

This December 2010 GAO report reviews the NSC-coordinated strategy to secure all nuclear materials within 4 years. The report notes that specific details regarding the implementation of the strategy are unclear, including the program’s cost and scope. While noting that NNSA programs in Russia have seen much success, GAO also found several implementation challenges to each program. The report specifically highlights concerns regarding Russia’s ongoing political support for NNSA’s MPC&A initiatives and Russia’s ability to sustain these programs once responsibility is shifted from the United States. GAO recommended that DOE and NNSA clarify the cost and scope of MPC&A programs in Russia, and also that the deadline for these activities be extended. It also recommended that NSC take a stronger leadership role over the initiative as a whole, noting that as of writing it lacked a clear inter-agency point of contact. 

1.      NRC Has Enhanced the Controls of Dangerous Radioactive Materials, but Vulnerabilities Remain