Hospitals and Dirty Bombs: Removing Dangerous Radiological Material from the Public Space

Program Assistant Erin Connolly wrote an academic paper for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Weapons of mass destruction have proven to be an arduous aspiration for state and non-state
actors given that they are generally kept in secure facilities. However, radiological materials such as
cesium-137 do not share the same obstacles and are often found in locations that are, by nature, open
to the public despite their security risk. This paper explores the risk posed by cesium-137 and how
alternatives, such as x-ray blood irradiation, can reduce the risk of a radiological dispersal device (RDD)
and increase public security. Cesium-137 is most commonly used to irradiate, or sterilize, blood and can
be found in hundreds of facilities worldwide. In order to fully eradicate the risk of radiological terrorism,
countries should transition from cesium blood irradiation to viable alternatives–a process that will
likely require government assistance. The Nuclear Security Summit process emphasized the need to
transition away from cesium, but it is critical countries such as the United States continue to lead the
process in the absence of summits. Read more