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Radiological Sources Could Improve DOE's Efforts to Secure Sources in 
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Testimony: 

Before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the 
Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, Committee on Homeland 
Security and Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

For Release on Delivery Expected at 2:30 p.m. EST: 

Tuesday, March 13, 2007: 

Nuclear Nonproliferation: 

Focusing on the Highest Priority Radiological Sources Could Improve 
DOE's Efforts to Secure Sources in Foreign Countries: 

Statement of Gene Aloise, Director: 
Natural Resources and Environment: 

GAO-07-580T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-07-580T, a testimony to the Subcommittee on Oversight 
of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of 
Columbia, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, U.S. 
Senate 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, U.S. and 
international experts raised concerns that unsecured radiological 
sources posed a significant security threat to the United States and 
the international community. If certain types of these sources were 
obtained by terrorists, they could be used to produce a radiological 
dispersion device, or dirty bomb. In response, the Department of Energy 
(DOE) established the International Radiological Threat Reduction 
Program to identify, recover, and secure vulnerable, high-risk 
radiological sources. GAO was asked to (1) assess DOE’s progress in 
securing sources in foreign countries, (2) identify DOE’s current and 
planned program costs, and (3) determine the extent to which DOE has 
coordinated its efforts with other federal agencies and with 
international organizations, such as the International Atomic Energy 
Agency (IAEA). In January 2007, GAO issued a report— Nuclear 
Nonproliferation: DOE’s International Radiological Threat Reduction 
Program Needs to Focus Future Efforts on Securing the Highest Priority 
Radiological Sources, (GAO-07-282)—that addressed these matters. To 
carry out its work, GAO reviewed DOE policies, plans and budgets; 
observed installed physical security upgrades; and interviewed senior 
DOE, Department of State (State), and Nuclear Regulatory Commission 
(NRC) officials. 

What GAO Found: 

While DOE has improved the security of hundreds of sites that contain 
radiological sources in more than 40 countries, many of the highest-
risk sources remain unsecured. For example, more than 700 radioisotope 
thermoelectric generators (RTG) remain operational or abandoned across 
Russia, representing the largest unsecured quantity of radioactivity in 
the world. Each of these devices has activity levels ranging from 
25,000 to 250,000 curies of strontium-90—similar to the amount of such 
material released from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident. In 
addition, only 4 of 20 waste storage facilities in Russia and Ukraine 
have been secured. 

In 2003, when DOE decided to broaden the scope of the program beyond 
the former Soviet Union, it also expanded the types of sites that 
required security upgrades to include hospitals and oncology clinics. 
In contrast to higher priority sources, such as RTGs, these facilities 
operate teletherapy machines that generally contain a single cobalt-60 
source ranging from about 1,000 to 10,000 curies. As of September 30, 
2006, almost 70 percent of all sites secured by DOE’s program were 
hospitals and oncology clinics. Moreover, DOE has not developed a plan 
to ensure that countries receiving security upgrades will be able to 
sustain them over the long-term. 

Since 2002, DOE has spent about $108 million to implement its program. 
Funding for the program has steadily declined as DOE has placed a 
higher priority on securing special nuclear material, such as plutonium 
and highly enriched uranium. 

Finally, although DOE has improved coordination with State and NRC, 
these efforts have been inconsistent. For example, DOE chose not to 
transfer $5 million of its fiscal year 2004 appropriation to NRC for 
international regulatory activities, causing friction between the 
agencies. In addition, GAO found that critical gaps in information-
sharing between DOE and IAEA have impeded DOE’s ability to target the 
most vulnerable sites in IAEA member states for security improvements. 

In its recent report, GAO made recommendations to the Secretary of 
Energy and the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security 
Administration to (1) limit the number of hospitals and clinics 
containing radiological sources that receive security upgrades to only 
those deemed the highest risk; (2) accelerate efforts to remove as many 
RTGs in Russia as practicable; and (3) develop a long-term 
sustainability plan for security upgrades. In addition, GAO asked 
Congress to consider providing NRC with authority and a direct 
appropriation to conduct regulatory development activities to help 
improve other countries’ security over sources. DOE said that our 
recommendations were helpful and would further strengthen its program. 
NRC said it would work closely with relevant executive branch agencies 
and IAEA if Congress acts upon GAO’s matter for consideration. 

[Hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-580T]. 

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Gene Aloise, (202) 512-
3841, aloisee@gao.gov . 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here today to discuss our work on the actions the 
Department of Energy (DOE) has taken to secure radiological sources in 
foreign countries. Specifically, my remarks are based on the report we 
are issuing today--Nuclear Nonproliferation: DOE's International 
Radiological Threat Reduction Program Needs to Focus Future Efforts on 
Securing the Highest Priority Radiological Sources, which was prepared 
at the request of this subcommittee.[Footnote 1] 

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, U.S. and 
international experts raised concerns that unsecured radiological 
sources were vulnerable to theft and posed a significant security 
threat to the United States and the international community. If certain 
types of these sources were obtained by terrorists, they could be used 
to produce a simple and crude but potentially dangerous weapon--known 
as a radiological dispersion device, or dirty bomb. 

In 2001, a congressional report directed DOE to address the threat 
posed by dirty bombs. In response, the National Nuclear Security 
Administration (NNSA)[Footnote 2] established the Radiological Threat 
Reduction Task Force to identify, recover, and secure vulnerable, high- 
risk radiological sources. This effort was focused in countries of the 
former Soviet Union (FSU) because DOE determined this region had the 
greatest number of vulnerable sources. In 2003, at the direction of the 
Secretary of Energy, DOE expanded the scope of the program to secure 
sealed sources worldwide, ultimately establishing the International 
Radiological Threat Reduction (IRTR) Program. The program's primary 
objective is to protect U.S. national security interests by (1) 
implementing rapid physical security upgrades at vulnerable sites 
containing radioactive sources; (2) locating, recovering, and 
consolidating lost or abandoned high-risk radioactive sources; and (3) 
supporting the development of the infrastructure necessary to sustain 
security enhancements and supporting regulatory controls, including the 
development of regional partnerships to leverage international 
resources. 

The Department of State (State) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission 
(NRC) also fund efforts to secure radiological sources in other 
countries, though on a much smaller scale than DOE. State, among other 
things, provides the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with 
funds to conduct training, workshops, and advisory missions to improve 
member states' radiological source security practices and procedures. 
NRC has provided guidance on the development of programs in Armenia, 
Georgia, and Kazakhstan to improve nuclear regulatory controls over 
radiological sources, including establishing radiological source 
inventories and promoting the development of laws, rules, and 
regulations governing controls over this material. 

In this context, you asked us to (1) assess the progress DOE has made 
in implementing its program to help other countries secure their sealed 
radiological sources, (2) identify DOE's current and planned program 
costs, and (3) determine the extent to which DOE has coordinated its 
efforts with other federal agencies and with international 
organizations, such as IAEA and the European Commission. In conducting 
our review, we analyzed DOE's IRTR program documentation, including 
project work plans for each country and program activity; strategic 
plans; and internal briefings. We supplemented the documentation with 
interviews with senior level DOE officials responsible for implementing 
the IRTR program. We also visited four countries--Russia, Lithuania, 
Poland and Georgia--representing about 35 percent of overall DOE 
program expenditures, observed physical security upgrades implemented 
by DOE's program, and met with host government officials in each 
country. We reviewed budget documents detailing IRTR program 
expenditures and determined the program's total carryover of unspent 
and unobligated funds. Finally, we met with senior officials at State, 
NRC, IAEA and the European Commission. We performed our review in 
Washington, D.C., and other locations, from November 2005 to December 
2006 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing 
standards. 

In summary: 

DOE has improved the security of hundreds of sites that contain 
radiological sources in more than 40 countries and achieved some 
noteworthy accomplishments, including the removal of cobalt-60 and 
cesium-137 sources from a poorly protected nuclear waste repository in 
Chechnya. However, many of the highest-risk and most dangerous sources 
remain unsecured. For example, hundreds of large devices known as 
radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG) remain operational or 
abandoned in Russia. Each of these devices has activity levels ranging 
from 25,000 to 250,000 curies of strontium-90--similar to the amount of 
strontium-90 released from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident in 
1986.[Footnote 3] In addition, security upgrades at a majority of waste 
storage facilities--which can individually store up to 3 million curies 
of material--located primarily in Russia and Ukraine, have not been 
completed. Moreover, in 2003, when DOE decided to broaden the program's 
scope beyond the former Soviet Union, it also expanded the types of 
sites that required security upgrades to include medical facilities 
operating teletherapy machines which are used to provide radiation 
treatment to cancer patients. These machines generally contain a single 
cobalt-60 radiological source ranging from about 1,000 to 10,000 
curies. As a result, as of September 2006, almost 70 percent of all 
sites secured were hospitals and oncology clinics. In the view of 
several DOE national laboratory and security specialists responsible 
for implementing the program, DOE installed security upgrades at so 
many of these facilities primarily because the upgrades are relatively 
modest in scope and cost. 

In addition, DOE has also experienced a number of challenges, such as, 
problems with foreign contractor performance and lack of adequate 
physical infrastructure to support security upgrades, which impeded 
program implementation; caused project delays; and in some extreme 
cases, prevented DOE from initiating projects at all. Finally, DOE has 
not developed a plan to ensure that countries receiving security 
upgrades will be able to sustain them over the long term. This is 
particularly problematic, since we identified numerous problems with 
the maintenance of DOE-funded security equipment and storage facilities 
during our site visits. 

Regarding program costs, as of August 31, 2006, DOE had spent 
approximately $108 million to secure radiological sources worldwide. A 
majority of this money--$68 million--was spent to (1) physically secure 
sites; (2) locate, recover, and dispose of lost or abandoned sources; 
and (3) help countries draft laws and regulations to increase security 
and accounting of sources. In addition, DOE provided $13.5 million to 
IAEA to support activities to strengthen controls over radiological 
sources in IAEA member states and spent $26.5 million on program 
planning activities such as, developing program guidance documents, 
hiring private consultants, and conducting studies. DOE officials told 
us that securing radiological sources in other countries is a lower 
priority than securing more dangerous nuclear materials, such as 
plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU). As a result, recent budget 
allotments for radiological security activities were reduced. 
Consequently, DOE program officials are concerned that the agency may 
be unable to meet outstanding contractual commitments to maintain the 
more than $40 million in security upgrades already installed. 

Concerning coordination between DOE, State and NRC, efforts have 
improved since we reported on this matter in 2003.[Footnote 4] 
Specifically, DOE has involved State and NRC in its international 
radiological threat reduction activities more often and has increased 
information-sharing with the agencies. However, DOE has not always 
integrated its nuclear regulatory infrastructure development efforts 
with these agencies efficiently. For example, DOE and NRC disagreed 
about whether, as directed by the Senate Appropriations Committee, DOE 
should have transferred $5 million from its fiscal year 2004 
appropriation to NRC for the purpose of strengthening international 
regulatory controls over radiological sources. Ultimately, DOE did not 
transfer the funds, causing friction between the agencies. Finally, DOE 
has improved coordination with IAEA to strengthen controls over other 
countries' radiological sources and has developed bilateral and 
multilateral partnerships with IAEA member states to improve their 
regulatory infrastructures. However, significant gaps in information- 
sharing between DOE and IAEA have impeded DOE's ability to target the 
most vulnerable sites for security improvements. 

To help ensure that DOE's future efforts focus on securing the highest 
priority sources, our report recommends that the Secretary of Energy 
and the Administrator of the NNSA, among other things, (1) limit the 
number of hospitals and clinics containing radiological sources that 
receive security upgrades to only those deemed the highest risk; (2) 
accelerate efforts to remove as many RTGs in Russia as practicable; and 
(3) develop a long-term sustainability plan for security upgrades that 
includes, among other things, future resources required to implement 
such a plan. Additionally, we asked that the Congress consider 
providing NRC with the authority and a direct appropriation to conduct 
international regulatory infrastructure development activities. DOE 
said that our recommendations were helpful and would further strengthen 
its program. NRC said it would work closely with relevant executive 
branch agencies and IAEA if Congress acts upon our matter for 
consideration. 

Background: 

The small size, portability and potential value of sealed radiological 
sources make them vulnerable to misuse, improper disposal and theft. 
According to IAEA, the confirmed reports of illicit trafficking in 
radiological materials have increased since 2002. For example, in 2004, 
about 60 percent of the cases involved radiological materials, some of 
which are considered by U.S. government and IAEA as attractive for the 
development of a dirty bomb. Although experts generally believe that a 
dirty bomb could result in a limited number of deaths, it could, 
however, have severe economic consequences. Depending on the type, 
amount, and form, the dispersed radiological material could cause 
radiation sickness for people nearby and produce serious economic, 
psychological and social disruption associated with the evacuation and 
subsequent cleanup of the contaminated area. Although no dirty bombs 
have been detonated, in the mid-1990s, Chechen separatists placed a 
canister containing cesium-137 in a Moscow park. While the device was 
not detonated and no radiological material was dispersed, the incident 
demonstrated that terrorists have the capability and willingness to use 
radiological sources as weapons of terror. 

A 2004 study by the National Defense University noted that the economic 
impact on a major populated area from a successful dirty bomb attack is 
likely to equal and perhaps exceed that of the September 11, 2001, 
attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. According to another 
study, the economic consequences of detonating a series of dirty bombs 
at U.S. ports, for example, would result in an estimated $58 billion in 
losses to the U.S. economy. The potential impacts of a dirty bomb 
attack could also produce significant health consequences. In 2002, the 
Federation of American Scientists concluded that an americium 
radiological source combined with one pound of explosives would result 
in medical supervision and monitoring required for the entire 
population of an area 10 times larger than the initial blast. 

DOE Has Installed Physical Security Upgrades at Hundreds of Sites 
Worldwide, but Many Dangerous Radiological Sources Have Not Been 
Secured: 

As of September 30, 2006, DOE had secured 368 sites that contained 
radiological sources in more than 40 countries. The agency's efforts 
included the removal of cobalt-60 and cesium-137 sources from a poorly 
protected nuclear waste repository in Chechnya; construction of storage 
facilities in Uzbekistan, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Georgia in order to 
consolidate sources and strengthen their long-term protection; and the 
installation of physical security upgrades at 21 sites containing 
radiological sources in Greece prior to the 2004 Olympics. However, 
despite these achievements, a majority of sites secured do not 
represent the highest-risk or the most vulnerable sources, and many of 
the most dangerous sources remain unsecured, particularly in Russia. 

In 2003, when DOE decided to broaden the program beyond the former 
Soviet Union, it expanded the types of sites that required security 
upgrades to include medical facilities that contained lower priority 
sources. For example, of the total sites completed, 256--or about 70 
percent--were hospitals and oncology clinics operating teletherapy 
machines which generally contain a single cobalt-60 source ranging from 
about 1,000 to 10,000 curies. In contrast, only 4 of 20 waste storage 
sites across Russia and Ukraine have been secured. According to DOE, 
these waste storage facilities are the most vulnerable in the world and 
pose a significant risk, because of the large quantities of radioactive 
sources currently housed at each site. 

Officials from three of the four recipient countries we visited raised 
concerns about DOE's focus on securing so many medical facilities and 
Russian officials told us that radiological sources in hospitals did 
not pose a risk comparable to that of RTGs or lost or abandoned 
sources. In addition, several national laboratory officials and 
security specialists responsible for implementing DOE's program told us 
that although progress had been made in securing radiological sources, 
the agency had focused too much attention on securing medical 
facilities at the expense of other higher-priority sites, such as waste 
storage facilities and RTGs. In their view, DOE installed security 
upgrades at so many of these facilities primarily because the upgrades 
were relatively modest in scope and cost. For example, a typical suite 
of security upgrades at a medical facility costs between $10,000 and 
$20,000, depending on the size of the site, whereas the average cost to 
remove and replace an RTG in the Far East region of Russia is about 
$72,000 in 2006 dollars. 

To track program progress, DOE has relied upon an indicator that uses 
as its primary metric, the number of sites that have been upgraded, or 
"sites secured." Although DOE has compiled and tracked accomplishments 
such as the amount of curies secured, the number of countries to 
receive regulatory assistance, and the number of orphan sources 
recovered, multiple national laboratory officials and security 
specialists told us that completing upgrades at medical facilities 
served to demonstrate rapid program progress because the upgrades are 
completed relatively quickly. DOE's program director said that the 
number of sites completed demonstrated conclusively that work has been 
done and represented the best available measurement. However, Pacific 
Northwest National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory officials 
told us that this particular measurement did not demonstrate how the 
program is reducing threats posed to U.S. national security interests. 
In their view, this measurement is one-dimensional and does not 
adequately distinguish lower-priority sites from higher-priority sites. 

Furthermore, although numerous medical facilities have been secured, 
more than 700 RTGs remain operational or abandoned in Russia, 
representing several million curies of unsecured radioactive material. 
Almost 100 of these are located along the Baltic coastal line and, 
according to Russian officials, should be removed as soon as possible 
because of their accessibility and proximity to large population 
centers. As of September 30, 2006, DOE had funded the removal of about 
13 percent of all RTGs located in Russia's inventory. 

According to DOE and Russian officials, RTG removal is complex and DOE 
has faced a number of challenges. First, no comprehensive inventory of 
RTGs exists, and, as a result, the actual number of these devices is 
unknown. Second, RTGs contain sources with high levels of 
radioactivity, and their removal requires specialized containers for 
their transport and facilities with adequate storage capacity. Finally, 
future RTG removal efforts will depend on finding a viable, alternative 
energy source to replace power supplied by radiological sources 
contained in RTGs. DOE has equipped a select number of RTGs with alarm 
systems that are remotely monitored as an interim measure to help 
reduce the risk posed by RTGs that have not yet been removed. 

Additionally, although IAEA officials told us that transportation of 
high-risk radiological sources is the most vulnerable part of the 
nuclear and radiological supply chain, DOE determined that source 
transport is generally outside the scope of the program and did not 
pursue transportation security-related projects with the majority of 
countries participating in the IRTR program. However, in every country 
we visited, host country officials identified the transportation of 
sources as a critical vulnerability and a priority for security 
upgrades. 

DOE also experienced numerous challenges that impeded program 
implementation, specifically problems with foreign contractor 
performance and inadequate physical infrastructure. Some examples we 
found of poor contactor performance included: 

* steel security doors to a room containing radiological sources 
installed with the hinges on the outside, 

* security manuals and procedures for newly installed equipment 
provided in English instead of the native language, and: 

* hospital staff that had not been trained by the contractor on 
operation of the alarm systems. 

In terms of physical infrastructure, some countries lacked reliable 
electricity, a backup power source, or telecommunications at sites 
containing radiological sources. As a result, frequent power outages 
diminished the detection capability of security alarms installed, and 
backup sources of power were unavailable to operate the security alarms 
and security lighting. DOE officials said that various combinations of 
these and other impediments resulted in delays implementing security 
upgrades in about 75 percent of all countries participating in the 
program. 

Finally, we were especially concerned to find that DOE had not 
developed a plan to ensure that countries receiving security upgrades 
will be able to sustain them over the long term, particularly in light 
of the number of problems with the maintenance of DOE-funded security 
equipment and storage facilities we identified during our site visits. 
For example, we visited an oncology clinic and observed that the 
security cable used to secure a teletherapy machine's cobalt-60 source 
had been broken for almost a month. This cable, according to a DOE 
physical protection specialist, was the most important security feature 
because it triggered an alarm directly connected to the teletherapy 
machine's "head," which contains the radiological source. We also 
observed a storage facility containing RTGs and a seed irradiator-- 
which has thousands of curies of a cesium-137 source--with several 
large openings in the roof and a broken motion detection device at a 
research facility containing a 22,000 curie irradiator. According to 
the foreign contractor, because of the high level of radioactivity 
present, the device had been disabled at least three times since the 
equipment was installed about a year earlier. 

DOE's current sustainability plan consists of a 3-year warranty on 
newly installed security equipment and preventative maintenance 
contracts, as well as providing training on newly installed equipment 
for operational staff at the sites. However, DOE has not formulated a 
long-term plan that identifies, among other things, how host countries 
will financially continue maintenance of upgrades following DOE 
warranty expiration. DOE officials responsible for program 
implementation said that they were uncertain that security upgrades 
installed would be sustained by countries once DOE assistance was no 
longer available. In fact, our analysis showed that these officials had 
confidence that the security upgrades would be sustained in only 25 
percent of the countries. 

DOE Has Spent about $108 Million to Secure Radiological Sources 
Worldwide, but Future Program Funding Is Uncertain: 

As of August 31, 2006, DOE had spent about $108 million to implement 
the IRTR program. The majority of program expenditures--$68 million-- 
was spent to (1) physically secure sites containing radiological 
sources; (2) locate, recover, and dispose of lost or abandoned sources; 
and (3) help countries draft laws and regulations to increase security 
and accounting of sources. DOE also provided $13.5 million to IAEA to 
support activities to strengthen controls over radiological sources in 
IAEA member states. However, one-fourth of the total budget--about 
$26.5 million--was spent on program planning activities not directly 
attributed to a specific country. DOE also carried over almost $23 
million in unspent or unobligated funds for the IRTR program from 
previous years. Moreover, the program consistently carried over a 
substantial uncosted balance each fiscal year throughout the life of 
the program. Specifically, for fiscal years 2003 through 2005, the 
program carried over uncosted funds totaling $27.4 million, $34.1 
million, and $22.4 million, respectively. 

Physical security upgrades accounted for DOE's largest program 
expenditure--almost $43 million. The majority of these upgrades were 
installed at hospitals and oncology clinics. DOE also funded upgrades 
at other types of facilities that utilize or store radiological sources 
and materials, including waste storage facilities, commercial and 
industrial facilities, and other research institutes. The types of 
upgrades installed varied, but standard equipment packages consisted 
mostly of hardened windows and doors; motion sensors and alarms; access 
control systems, such as coded keypads or swipe card entry; security 
cameras; and video monitoring. Costs of physical security upgrades also 
included 3-year warranty contracts that covered maintenance costs, such 
as the cost of remote monitoring and spare parts. 

DOE also spent $23 million to provide countries with radiation 
detection equipment and training to locate and recover lost or 
abandoned radiological sources and secure them in interim or permanent 
storage facilities. More than 80 percent of these expenditures were 
spent in Russia--about $19 million. These funds were spent primarily to 
provide countries with (1) standard packages of equipment, such as hand-
held radiation detection monitors and characterization instruments to 
properly identify recovered sources; (2) training workshops on the 
appropriate use of the equipment; and (3) physical security upgrades at 
some facilities storing recovered or disposed sources. 

While DOE assistance was spread among 49 countries, Russia received the 
largest amount, $33 million, nearly one-third of total program 
expenditures. The 13 other former Soviet Union countries received a 
total of about $11 million. By comparison, DOE spent significantly less 
outside the former Soviet Union, and expenditures in these countries 
were both modest by comparison and disproportionately spent in the 
United States by DOE's national laboratories for labor, travel, 
equipment and overhead costs.[Footnote 5] For example, the 35 non-FSU 
countries participating in DOE's program received a total of about $17 
million, or just 28 percent of total country-specific 
expenditures.[Footnote 6] Furthermore, two-thirds of funds allocated 
for activities in these countries were spent in the United States. 

Since 2003, DOE has significantly decreased IRTR program funding and 
according to a senior DOE official, future funding will be redirected 
to, among other things, securing special nuclear material, such as 
plutonium and highly enriched uranium. Future anticipated reductions in 
funding for the IRTR program will have significant implications for the 
amount of sources that can be secured in other countries and may 
jeopardize DOE's ability to meet outstanding contractual commitments 
for the more than $40 million in security upgrades already installed. 
Additionally, according to DOE officials, the agency plans to seek 
international contributions to secure radiological sources in other 
countries to offset anticipated shortfalls in funding. 

Coordination with State and NRC Has Improved, but Coordination Problems 
Worldwide Have Impacted DOE's Ability to Target the Most Vulnerable 
Sites for Security Improvements: 

In recent years, DOE has improved coordination with State and NRC to 
secure radiological sources worldwide, involved State and NRC in its 
international radiological threat reduction activities more often, and 
increased information-sharing with the agencies. For example, these 
agencies worked together successfully to implement a State-led effort 
to create the Iraq Radiological Source Regulatory Authority. This 
effort included providing equipment, training, technical assistance, 
and funding to help the new agency assume increased responsibility for 
establishing radiological source regulations and procedures consistent 
with international standards.[Footnote 7] 

However, DOE has not always integrated its efforts efficiently, and 
coordinated efforts among the agencies have been inconsistent. In 
particular, DOE, State, and NRC have differed on funding and 
implementation of regulatory infrastructure development activities in 
other countries. For example, in May 2003, NRC's Office of 
International Programs sought $5 million in appropriated funds to 
assist its regulatory counterparts in countries of the Former Soviet 
Union and central and eastern Europe to, among other things, enhance 
existing laws, rules, and regulations governing the use of radiological 
sources. NRC officials noted they made the request in part because the 
biggest challenge the agency has faced has been identifying adequate, 
reliable, and predictable funding to support international assistance 
activities. In July 2003, the Senate Appropriations Committee directed 
DOE to make $5 million out of certain amounts appropriated to NNSA 
available to NRC for bilateral and international efforts to strengthen 
regulatory controls over radioactive sources that are at the greatest 
risk of being used in a dirty bomb attack. However, DOE did not do so 
because, according to DOE officials, the provision directing them to 
transfer the funds did not appear in the final conference report and 
was not included in the appropriation legislation. 

In addition, within the agency, DOE has not adequately coordinated the 
activities of multiple programs responsible for securing radiological 
and nuclear materials in other countries, which, at times, has resulted 
in conflicting or overlapping efforts. Specifically, we found: 

* a lack of effective integration between different programs addressing 
multiple threat reduction activities at the same sites, 

* confusion among host country officials because of multiple visits to 
the same country by different components of the same program, and: 

* limited information-sharing between international source security and 
recovery of U.S.-origin sources in order to better leverage DOE 
resources. 

With respect to international organizations, DOE has improved 
coordination with IAEA to strengthen controls over other countries' 
radiological sources and has developed bilateral and multilateral 
partnerships with IAEA member states to improve their regulatory 
infrastructures. However, significant gaps in information-sharing 
between DOE and IAEA have impacted DOE's ability to target the most 
vulnerable sites for security improvements. For example, IAEA has not 
shared with DOE the countries that IAEA considers the most in need of 
security assistance. In addition, although DOE funds IAEA appraisal 
missions to assess the weaknesses in radioactive source security in 
IAEA member states, IAEA does not provide DOE with the findings of 
these missions because member state information is considered country- 
sensitive and confidential. 

Finally, we found that little coordination exists between DOE and the 
European Commission. Although, the Commission has coordinated with IAEA 
to provide assistance to selected European countries to improve control 
over radiological sources, Commission officials told us that no formal 
communication exists with the United States on matters related to 
radioactive source security assistance. As a result, each the United 
States and the Commission are largely unaware of the specific sites and 
locations the other is securing, and whether recipient countries are 
receiving too little or too much assistance. 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be happy to 
respond to any questions that you or other Members of the Subcommittee 
may have. 

GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

For further information about this testimony, please contact me at 
(202) 512-3841 or at aloisee@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of 
Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last 
page of this statement. Erika D. Carter, Nancy Crothers, Glen Levis, 
Mehrunisa Qayyum, and Jim Shafer also made key contributions to this 
statement. 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] GAO-07-282. 

[2] NNSA is a separately organized agency within DOE that was created 
by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, Pub. L. 
No. 106-65 (2000), with responsibility for the nation's nuclear 
weapons, nonproliferation, and naval reactors programs. 

[3] A curie is a unit of measurement of radioactivity. In modern 
nuclear physics, it is defined as the amount of substance in which 37 
billion atoms per second undergo radiological disintegration. In the 
international system of units, the becquerel is the preferred unit of 
radioactivity. One curie equals 3.7 x 1010 becquerels. 

[4] GAO, Nuclear Nonproliferation: U.S. and International Assistance 
Efforts to Control Sealed Radiological Sources Need Strengthening, GAO-
03-638 (Washington, D.C.: May 16, 2003). 

[5] DOE noted that some of the FSU countries that received DOE 
assistance had comparatively larger infrastructure problems than that 
of several non-FSU countries and, in some cases, higher labor rates; 
and therefore, project implementation costs in the FSU countries were 
proportionally higher. 

[6] Of the $107.7 million in total program expenditures, $61.7 million 
could be traced to specific country-related expenditures. 

[7] For more information on U.S. efforts to secure radiological sources 
in Iraq, see Radiological Sources in Iraq: DOD Should Evaluate Its 
Source Recovery Efforts and Apply Lessons Learned to Future Recovery 
Missions, GAO-05-672 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 7, 2005). 

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