Wanted: Small Amounts of Plutonium

US agency ferrets out unused radioactive sources
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2009 3:47 PM CST

(Newser) – The country is crawling with unused radioactive material, and it’s up to the little-known National Nuclear Security Administration to dispose of it, the Los Angeles Times reports. They're not after warheads, but small amounts of plutonium used in medical and technological pursuits in more than 130 countries, as even the tiniest sample could make its way into a dirty bomb.

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“The world is more dangerous today than when Russia had missiles pointing at us and we had missiles pointed at Russia,” said an agency official. Though the NNSA routinely—and without cost to the companies seeking disposal—removes battery-size samples with just latex gloves as protection, the scale of the operation is staggering. In 12 years, more than 20,600 radioactive sources have been retrieved in the US alone, which the agency says justifies the program’s $15 million price tag. (Read more plutonium stories.)

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