Web-based system proposed to track radioactive material

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is proposing a secure Web-based national system to track radioactive materials used in the medical, industrial and research sectors.

The proposed National Source Tracking System is intended to better secure certain nuclear byproducts and other radioactive materials – used in medical diagnoses and therapy, technology research and development, commercial manufacturing, and numerous other uses – that could also be used in potential weapons.

The Federal Register published today the NRC’s proposed amendments to its regulations requiring licensees of radioactive materials to report information on the manufacture, transfer, receipt or disposal of materials.

Under the proposal, licensees would also be required to provide their initial inventory of radioactive materials to the system and annually verify and reconcile information in the system with their inventories.

The radioactive materials that would be tracked include certain amounts of cobalt-60, cesium-137, iridium-192, Americium-241 and several other isotopes. The deadline for comments is Oct. 11, according to the Federal Register.

Following the 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, Energy Department and NRC officials discussed protecting inventories of nuclear materials that could be used in radiological-dispersal devices. In May 2003, a joint working group issued a report on the issue, including a recommendation to create a national tracking system to monitor the locations and movement of such materials.

In September 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency revised its “Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources,” recommending that each member state develop a national source registry of certain radioactive sources. The U.S. government endorsed the code, although it is nonbinding.

Currently, there is no single repository that verifies licensed users, locations, quantities and movement of radioactive materials. However, the NRC has created an interim database of such information from licensees voluntarily providing basic data, which is intended to be a “snapshot in time” and updated at least once a year. The National Source Tracking System is expected to replace the interim database and provide information on an ongoing basis.

When the system is fully operational, authorized licensees would be able to report their information online. But they would also be able to submit their information via a paper form or telephone, according to the notice.

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