RAHWAY – A state lawmaker is pushing for stricter standards for the disposal of unused medical equipment after the National Nuclear Security Administration announced the recovery of two obsolete medical irradiators from a warehouse in Rahway last week.
“It’s not everyday that nuclear safety officials buzz through town and haul away radioactive materials, and it’s even scarier to think that this dangerous stuff was just sitting around in a warehouse,” said Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union.) “That’s unacceptable for both our community’s health and our national security. We cannot have it.”
The devices, which were used for medical research during their useful lives, contained more than 3,000 curies of Cesium-137 at the time of their recovery, federal officials said. Due to their high activity and portability, radioactive sealed sources such as these irradiators could be used in radiological dispersal devices, commonly referred to as “dirty bombs,” according to federal officials.
“Properly disposing of more than 3,000 curies of Cesium eliminates the threat this material poses if lost or stolen and used in a dirty bomb,” said National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Thomas P. D’Agostino. “This recovery is part of NNSA’s comprehensive strategy to keep dangerous nuclear and radiological material safe and secure and protect the American people by further enhancing our nation’s nuclear security.”
Every year, thousands of sources of radioactive material become disused and unwanted in the United States. While secure storage is a temporary measure, the longer sources remain disused or unwanted, the greater the chance that they will become unsecured or abandoned, federal officials said.
Stender said on Friday that she would explore what’s needed to require medical facilities to have outdated equipment quickly picked up by the government. The assemblywoman said she would consider state legislation and lobby for stricter federal laws on unused medical equipment.
“Whether it be through federal or state legislation, clearly more needs to be done to ensure dirty bomb materials aren’t just lying around in warehouses waiting to fall into the wrong hands,” Stender said. “It’s scary to think this stuff is out there like that, and it’s not too much to ask for medical facilities to keep track of where it goes, so I will see what we can do.”
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