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A watchdog lied to get radioactive materials. Terrorists could, too.

Government Accountability Office: Nuclear Regulatory Commission's current system for verifying licenses does not adequately protect against the purchase of high-risk radioactive materials using a fraudulent license. There have been 34 specific instances of sabotage, theft and vandalism of dangerous radioactive materials since 1990, NRC officials told the GAO. Radioactive materials have numerous beneficial and legal uses in health care, research and industry, but “in the hands of terrorists,” GAO warned, “even a small amount could be used to construct a radiological dispersal device, also known as a dirty bomb” There were 4,512 nuclear materials events, including lost or stolen radioactive materials, radioactive leaks, and radiation overexposures from 2011 through 2020.

The need for a remedy was demonstrated in 2009 when police found radioactive materials that could be used for a dirty bomb in the Maine home of a white supremacist and Nazi sympathizer. The GAO focused on a “category 3 quantity of radioactive material” It is not as dangerous as categories 1 and 2, which have more stringent security requirements, but more hazardous than categories 4 and 5. In 2021, Jared Trent Atkins was sentenced to 15 years in prison for stealing radioactive material that he planned to release in a