Energy & Commerce, Homeland Security Leaders Write Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Dirty Bomb Threat After Government Report Exposes Security Gaps
Today, bipartisan leaders from the House Committee on Energy & Commerce and House Committee on Homeland Security sent a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) urging the agency to take immediate action to address vulnerabilities in its oversight of purchases of radiological materials. Last month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that identified security gaps that could be exploited by terrorists and other bad actors to obtain material to deploy a dirty bomb domestically, which could cause billions of dollars in socioeconomic costs.
The letter was signed by Committee on Energy & Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Committee on Homeland Security Ranking Member John Katko (R-NY), Committee on Homeland Security Vice Chairman Ritchie Torres (D-NY), and Committee on Homeland Security Vice Ranking Member Michael Guest (R-MS).
“The possibility of nefarious actors being able to buy such dangerous quantities of radiological material should be a call to immediate action,” the Members wrote. “The threat is real – a recent publication by the Terrorgram Collective, a Racially and Ethnically Motivated Extremist group, claimed that dirty bombs are the ‘holy grail of terrorism’ and provided rough instructions on manufacturing a device using uranium ore. As law enforcement has recently been under threats of violence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security have observed calls for using dirty bombs against law enforcement, including suggesting the placement of one in front of FBI Headquarters. Moreover, officials from the National Nuclear Security Administration have assessed that bad actors are showing an increasing interest in making dirty bombs.”
The Members warn that the traditional rulemaking process, even if expedited, will take too long – possibly years – and urge the NRC to use its authority to take immediate action.