Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, today questioned government officials on the regulation of nuclear licenses in a post-9/11 world.
“We have made real progress in preventing terrorists, explosives, biological and chemical weapons, and radioactive materials from penetrating our defenses,” commented Senator Collins, who drafted bipartisan legislation to secure America’s borders. “Those gains will avail us little, however, if home-grown terrorists can readily acquire deadly materials within our borders to fuel their attacks. The enterprising work of Government Accountability Office investigators suggests that they could do exactly that with relative ease.”
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, released today, highlighted the fact that nuclear security measures put in place following the 2001 terrorist attacks designed to keep nuclear material out of terrorist hands is still insufficient. GAO auditors recently conducted an undercover operation where, after little work, they were able to obtain a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, without interviews or on-site inspections. After simply forging the license, the auditors were able to purchase a large quantity of nuclear material. This material could have used to construct a so-called “dirty bomb.” While the estimated damage of the bomb would have been limited, it nonetheless underscores the need for better regulation.
“The consequences of not protecting the nation’s radioactive material could be dire,” noted Senator Collins. “If it is indeed a relatively simple matter to obtain, alter, or counterfeit Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses to acquire radioactive materials, then we face yet another challenge to achieving homeland security for our people.”