Post-9/11 Security Concerns
Extremely radioactive cobalt-60 (Co-60) source material from Russia or Argentina, sent to the British sealed source supplier -- Reviss Services -- for assembly into stainless steel "pencils," was shipped here via cargo ship, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and local roads.
- Cobalt-60 is considered highly desirable by terrorists seeking to construct "dirty bombs." Our community therefore became a target.
Radioactive materials are stored and used in a privately-operated facility. Unlike large, robust, secure nuclear power plants, irradiation facilities tend to be small. They typically lack well-trained and well-armed security staff.
- Paul Gunter, an expert at the Nuclear Information and Resource Service based in Washington, D.C. , refers to large-scale nuclear irradiators such as the one in Milford Township as "potential predeployed weapons of mass destruction." He says that irradiation facilities are not required by NRC to conduct Operational Safeguards Response Evaluations (OSRE) or mock force-on-force exercises as conducted every three years at nuclear power stations to evaluate site security readiness and compliance. Whether or not the irradiator at CFC Logistics had guards (we never noticed any), its security response readiness was not independently tested.
- Several sticks of dynamite were stolen from a local quarry during the summer of 2003. High explosives such as these could be effectively used against the irradiator, with disastrous results. In May 2005, a local Pennsylvania man was arrested by the FBI for attempting to sell a large bomb to anti-American terrorists, foreign or domestic.
- In the wake of the tragic events of 9/11, CFC Logistics asked that security and storage details be withheld from their permit application. If they were concerned, it is only logical that we citizens should be, too! Milford Township residents had no knowledge of the security plan required for CFC Logistics' irradiation plant. How comprehensive was it?
- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission preempted our local township government's emergency management officials from any involvement in security planning operations. It was essential for the community's peace of mind that we have a trusted official scrutinize the emergency plan and inform us of its adequacy. (Of course, we understand that all confidential information must have remained so to assure our safety.)
- Plant security was a fundamental concern raised by our experts during legal proceedings before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel. The issue was never resolved. The settlement agreement terminated all outstanding legal matters before an evidentiary hearing could be held and the issue fully examined. During settlement discussions, CCMT team members were prevented by NRC from raising security concerns of any kind. This was a major blow to public confidence and our community's sense of safety and security since the licensing of this potential terrorist target.
How lethal is cobalt-60?
- Fifteen minutes in the irradiator tank result in a dose equivalent to over 5 million chest x-rays (assuming the minimum level of nuclear radiation required to kill germs).
- An exposure of 600 RAD is considered fatal to 50% of adults. In the irradiator pit, a worker or emergency responder would receive that exposure in less than 5 seconds.
- Cobalt-60 has a half-life of 5.27 years. If released by accident or sabotage, it will only be "safe" in the environment after about ten half-lives (about 53 years). The community risked contamination of our precious water and soil at least that long.
- On August 27, 2003, CFC Logistics received a license from the NRC to operate the irradiation facility with one million curies of cobalt-60. This is several billion times the "background" exposure in Pennsylvania, even compared to homes contaminated with radon gas.
- According to CFC documents, the surface of radioactive cobalt-60 rods may reach 626 degrees Fahrenheit. As of July 8, 2003, the irradiator's designer was not sure whether additional equipment would be needed at the plant to remove heat from the cobalt-60 "pencils." This confusion is one key reason why we initiated a challenge to CFC Logistics' operating license on technical grounds. Fortunately, the company agreed to provide a backup generator as part of the settlement agreement completed during the summer of 2004.
Who would permit an irradiator after learning the facts?
To access the "Confirmatory Order" issued by NRC on January 26, 2005 for the above incident, describing a settlement agreement with Baxter Healthcare Corporation, click here. The settlement was reached in connection with serious violations at Baxter's medical irradiator in Puerto Rico.
- The irradiation facility was close to our homes, schools, businesses and major roads.
- State and other police had not received training and anti-radiation equipment for problems at this site at the time of the approval of the license application.
- CFC Logistics had guaranteed local emergency responders only two hours of nuclear response training annually and provided them with no specialized equipment.
- We wondered who would buy or build homes in our community knowing that this plant was operating?