Sen. Schumer Pushes Feds to Fix Lax Laws that Allow Almost Anyone to get Radioactive Bomb-Making Materials

NY Daily News - October 04, 2016

by Reuven Blau

The feds need to revamp nuclear licensing rules to restrict terrorists from getting their hands on radioactive materials that can be used to make a dirty bomb, Sen. Schumer said Sunday.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission currently has rules that are so lax almost anyone can buy dangerous amounts of radioactive materials, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report cited by Schumer.

“The GAO did the right thing by exposing this ‘dirty bomb’ secret and now we must finish the job by pushing to close this loophole while taking a hard look at just who is being granted access to these dangerous materials,” Schumer said.

The call for better nuclear oversight comes a little over two weeks after suspected bomber Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, detonated bombs in Seaside Park, N.J. and in Chelsea 11 hours later on Sept. 17.

Rahami used everyday materials to make his pressure cooker bombs, according to authorities.

“But what if Rahami — or any other lone wolf — was interested in building a radioactive bomb?” Schumer asked.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is the government’s independent body charged with developing rules for nuclear reactor and nuclear material safety. Anyone seeking to buy radioactive materials must first submit an application to the commission.

But the commission only reviews so-called “category 3” radioactive material, the most dangerous type. Radioactive materials in the other two categories, though, are powerful enough in large quantities to be used to create a dirty bomb, Schumer said.

“Simply put, allowing a loophole in even one of these categories is like allowing a loophole in them all and that is what we must close-easy access to radioactive material,” Schumer said.

The commission also needs to do a better job screening who it approves for radioactive purchases, the GAO report issued in July concluded.

As part of its investigation, GAO probers created three bogus businesses and applied for category 3 radioactive materials for each. One of the businesses was able to obtain a license for the dangerous materials, the GAO said.

“We simply can’t let people purchase radioactive ingredients like they do the ingredients for a cake,” Schumer said.