Oct
10

Safer after Fifteen Years?

Steven Brill’s article in the September Atlantic Monthly “IS Nuclear Bomb BlastAMERICA ANY SAFER? Part V sent me back to my filing cabinet. Coverage of the Dirty Bomb took me back twenty-eight years to President Reagan’s 1988 Executive Order 12656. The end of the COLD WAR was met by most with joy and hope for a less dangerous world. During those halcyon days of the “Peace Dividend,” many felt that it was time stand down and relax. Others agreed that it may be a reduction of Nation-State use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) but, realized that these tools of war may fall into the hands of a growing number of non-state terrorist groups.

The Executive Order directed all federal agencies to prepare for the defense of the nation in the event of such attacks. Additionally, the order directed that these agencies prepare their civilian counterparts for such an event.

The struggle to eliminate the threat posed by Medical Use Radioactive Materials (MURM) in the nation’s hospitals and healthcare research organizations is difficult to explain. The industry was given two options to neutralize the danger posed by these materials. 1)  Replace these materials with less dangerous substitutes or 2) Secure the sites with federally funded hardening protocols.

Dirty Bomb -cesium 137The Defense Science Board 2007 Summer Studies Report characterized the over 1,000 Cesium-137 used in hospitals and other healthcare research sites as “low-hanging fruit for terrorist, one-half of the dreaded Dirty Bomb.”  The example was given “a dirty bomb in the area of the Port Authority at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue, would kill few people immediately, but ‘destroy’ for 30 to 40 years such landmarks as Penn Station, the Theater District, and Lincoln Center… “

This must be a closely held government secret. Not the Case!!!

Some Congressional Committees and Subcommittees have been working to solve this dangerous situation for more than a decade.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published numerous reports on the lack of attention to the known threats with continue to exist in the nation’s hospitals.

The popular press and professional trade publications have published hundreds of articles on the issue.

President Obama vowed that on his watch we would see a meaningful reduction of nuclear threats.

The first Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington D. C. in 2010 followed by three other summits (2002, 2004, 2006)

The latest GAO report on the hospital and research MURM voluntary compliance in their duty to either protect their dangerous materials or use approved, safer materials was one in five healthcare sites have taken appropriate action.

Attached is the Jan 2008 whitepaper I posted to my website.Two years later I published: UNREADY: TO ERR IS HUMAN –The Other Neglected Side of Hospital Safety and Security.

 

Despite the good intentions of journalists, scientists, and government officials from Congress to the Executive Branch making a lot of noise about this issue, only 20% of hospitals with MURM onsite have taken action to either substitute or benefit from the free federal funding to harden these sites.   The remaining 80% continue to be a risk for all Americans until a deadline that industry has pushed to 2025, or a dirty bomb wakes up those who have been so lax in mitigating this threat.