WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Nuclear Security Administration announced this week that it has recovered high-activity radioactive materials from an oncology clinic in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative, or GTRI, and the Mexican National Commission for Nuclear Security and Safeguards, or CNSNS, jointly supported the removal, a press release said. 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 release said. 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.
The release said 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 from highly enriched uranium, or HEU, to low enriched uranium, 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.
The release said this mission is one important part of NNSA’s layered approach to nuclear and radiological security cooperation with Mexico.