Policy Consideration 4

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An independent review panel should be established based on recommendations from the National Academies Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board (NAS NRSB) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to evaluate all requests for isotopes that are not now currently available from commercial sources.

Said panel should enquire of any investigator, including those in any and all Federal departments or agencies, as to the “need” for such isotope, its fully burdened costs of manufacture (including overheads) and why alternatives, such as available isotopes, cannot be used for given experimentation. In its report on a “Workshop on The Nation’s Needs for Isotopes: Present and Future,” the Department of Energy’s Office of Science listed numerous isotopes that could be needed for various purposes. However, this report (DoE/SC-0107) neglected to quantify such supposed needs. One cannot tell if milligrams, grams or kilograms or more of any given isotope is or could be needed. Of particular concern would be long-lived isotopes which would require heightened security measures. There has been a pattern of force-fitting existing DoE laboratory facilities into isotope manufacture using accelerators and platforms that may not be appropriate for such functions. Another policy issue pertains to the use of cesium-137. A 2008 National Academies report on Radiation Source Use and Replacement had recommended the discontinuance of the use of the isotope cesium-137 and the implementation of a funded program to facilitate the use of alternative sources (small X-ray devices) for such applications as blood irradiation. This isotope stored in many hospitals and other facilities was deemed to be susceptible to theft and could be used in making a “dirty bomb” which could be detonated in highly commercial areas, such as the Wall Street area in Manhattan, could leave that area inaccessible for centuries. How such Academy recommendations have or have not been implemented are policy matters that need to be brought to the attention of both Congress and the Administration.