Combating Nuclear Terrorism: Federal Efforts to Respond to Nuclear and Radiological Threats and to Protect Key Emergency Response Facilities Could Be Strengthened

GAO-08-285T Published: Nov 15, 2007. Publicly Released: Nov 15, 2007.
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The Department of Energy (DOE) maintains emergency response capabilities and assets to quickly respond to potential nuclear and radiological threats in the United States. These capabilities are primarily found at DOE's two key emergency response facilities--the Remote Sensing Laboratories at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. These capabilities took on increased significance after the attacks of September 11, 2001, because of heightened concern that terrorists may try to detonate a nuclear or radiological device in a major U.S. city. DOE is not the only federal agency responsible for addressing nuclear and radiological threats. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for preparing the country to prevent and respond to a potential nuclear or radiological attack. This testimony discusses (1) the benefits of using DOE's aerial background radiation surveys to enhance emergency response capabilities and (2) the physical security measures in place at DOE's two key emergency response facilities and whether they are consistent with DOE guidance. It is based on GAO's report on DOE's nuclear and radiological emergency response capabilities, issued in September 2006 (Combating Nuclear Terrorism: Federal Efforts to Respond to Nuclear and Radiological Threats and to Protect Emergency Response Capabilities Could be Strengthened [Washington, D.C.: Sept. 21, 2006]).

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