High-Activity Radioactive Materials Removed From Mexico

Anne Harrington

NASA News:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has announced that it recovered high-activity radioactive materials from an oncology clinic in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and the Mexican National Commission for Nuclear Security and Safeguards (CNSNS) jointly supported the removal and the device containing the source was packaged and securely transported to the U.S. for final disposition.

“This operation is part of NNSA’s broad strategy to strengthen both U.S. and global security by keeping dangerous nuclear and radiological material safe and secure,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington. “This mission is a good example of our long-standing partnership with Mexico to prevent proliferation and secure the materials that can be used by terrorists in an improvised nuclear device or dirty bomb.”

At the site in Mexico, the U.S.-origin cobalt-60 radioactive source was removed from the facility and packaged into a special transportation cask. The cask was loaded onto a truck and securely delivered to a facility in the United States for characterization and packaging for final disposition. This mission was supported by experts from Los Alamos National Laboratory, CNSNS and Mexico’s Radiofisica e Industria.

NNSA’s GTRI program has previously cooperated with Mexico to upgrade the security at 97 buildings that house radioactive sources, convert the research reactor at the National Institute for Nuclear Research (ININ) from highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low enriched uranium (LEU), and remove all remaining HEU from Mexico prior to the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit that occurred earlier this year.

GTRI works to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological material located at civilian sites worldwide. GTRI achieves permanent threat reduction by converting research reactors and isotope production facilities from HEU to LEU, by removing and disposing of excess nuclear and radiological materials, and by protecting high priority nuclear and radiological materials from theft and sabotage.

This mission is one important part of NNSA’s layered approach to nuclear and radiological security cooperation with Mexico. For example, the Office of Nonproliferation and International Security (NIS) works with Mexico’s ININ to strengthen nuclear security best practices at civilian nuclear facilities. NIS, in partnership with the Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security Program, also collaborates with the Government of Mexico to strengthen export control systems to prevent the illicit transfer of weapons of mass destruction and related materials, equipment and technology.

Additionally, NNSA’s Second Line of Defense program has equipped four major Mexican seaports with radiation detection systems designed to enhance Mexico’s ability to detect, deter and interdict the illicit trafficking of special nuclear materials.

For a fact sheet on DOE/NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative, click here.