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Homeland Security is on the minds of everyone these days. Undoubtedly you have read stories in the newspapers or watched reports on television about the possibility of radioactive materials being used for illicit purposes. The sources in portable gauges are sealed in stainless steel capsules that would be difficult to breach and cause radioactive contamination. Further, the relatively small amount of radioactive material would not represent a major hazard if spread over a large area.
However, during the period from January 1996 to October 2000 there were 156 reported thefts of nuclear gauges according to statistics maintained by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Only 40% of the stolen gauges were ever recovered. Most of the thefts occurred while gauges were stored in vehicles parked in areas away from the work site, often when the vehicle was parked at a private residence. NRC's analysis indicates that many gauges were stolen from trucks even when the gauges were secured with chains. Frequently, the gauges were locked in an open truck bed, readily visible to the public. Sometimes the entire vehicle was stolen along with the gauge. Because of the heightened concern about homeland security, all nuclear gauge thefts are being turned over to the FBI for investigation.
What can you do to keep your gauge more secure during transport and field operations, to avoid regulatory violations and fines, and to stay out the headlines? Here are some common sense suggestions:
For further information, see these recent information NRC information notices:
IN 2001-11, Thefts of Portable Gauges
IN 2002-30, Control & Surveillance of Portable Gauges During Field Operations
If you have any ideas on this subject, we would be interested in hearing about them. Please e-mail us to tell how you maintain security during transportation of your gauge.