Combating Nuclear Terrorism: Preliminary Observations on Preparedness to Recover from Possible Attacks Using Radiological or Nuclear Materials

GAO-09-996T Published: Sep 14, 2009. Publicly Released: Sep 14, 2009.
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A terrorist's use of a radiological dispersal device (RDD) or improvised nuclear device (IND) to release radioactive materials into the environment could have devastating consequences. The timely cleanup of contaminated areas, however, could speed the restoration of normal operations, thus reducing the adverse consequences from an incident. This testimony examines (1) the extent to which federal agencies are planning to fulfill their responsibilities to assist cities and their states in cleaning up areas contaminated with radioactive materials from RDD and IND incidents; (2) what is known about the federal government's capability to effectively cleanup areas contaminated with radioactive materials from RDD and IND incidents, and (3) suggestions from government emergency management officials on ways to improve federal preparedness to provide assistance to recover from RDD and IND incidents. We also discuss recovery activities in the United Kingdom. This testimony is based on our ongoing review of recovery preparedness issues for which we examined applicable federal laws and guidance; interviewed officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Energy (DOE), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and surveyed emergency management officials from 13 large cities and their states, as well as FEMA and EPA regional office officials.

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