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Abstracts and Available Papers Presented at the
2002 International RERTR Meeting

A REEVALUATION OF PHYSICAL PROTECTION STANDARDS FOR IRRADIATED HEU FUEL

Edwin Lyman and Alan Kuperman

Nuclear Control Institute, 1000 Connecticut Avenue, Suite 410, Washington, DC 20036 USA

ABSTRACT

In the post-September 11 era, it is essential to reconsider all the assumptions upon which the physical protection systems of the past were based and determine whether these assumptions are still appropriate in light of the current terrorist threat.

For instance, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission definition of a "formula quantity" of special nuclear material is derived from the belief that a terrorist plot to carry out multiple coordinated attacks on different facilities with the goal of acquiring enough SNM for a nuclear weapon is incredible.  This assumption has clearly been proven wrong by the September 11 attacks. 

Another standard that needs to be revisited is the “self-protection” threshold that determines whether or not an item containing SNM is considered to be “irradiated” for physical protection purposes.  The current value of this threshold, 1 Sv/hr unshielded at 1 meter, is of questionable value as a deterrent to determined terrorists who would be willing to sustain long-term injury as long as they could accomplish their near-term goals.  A more credible threshold would be set at a level that would have a high likelihood of disabling the perpetrators before they could complete their mission. 

Most irradiated nonpower reactor fuels would be unable to meet such a standard.  This raises serious questions about the adequacy of the level of physical protection applied today to the large inventories of irradiated HEU fuels now scattered in storage sites around the world.  The absence of a coherent global policy for dealing with these materials has created a situation rife with vulnerabilities that terrorists could exploit.  The international community, now seized with concern about unused stockpiles of unirradiated HEU fuels around the world, also needs to appreciate the dangers posed by lightly irradiated spent fuels as well.  A U.S. proposal to import Russian HEU for supplying U.S.nonpower reactors will only prolong this situation.  This paper will review policy options to mitigate this threat.


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Contact:
Mr. Edwin Lyman

President
Nuclear Control Institute
1000 Connecticut Avenue, NW Ste. 410
WashingtonD.C.20036, USA
Phone: (1 202) 822 6594
Fax: (1 202) 452 0892
E-mail: lyman@nci.org

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Last modified on July 29, 2008 11:34 +0200