Schumer wants to tighten laws on radioactive materials

With the right ingredients, making a
With the right ingredients, making a “dirty bomb” is as easy as baking a cake, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a news conference in Manhattan on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Kena Betancur

Sen. Chuck Schumer called on the federal government Sunday to close the loopholes that allow individuals to purchase materials for a “dirty bomb” — which he said was a pressing matter in the wake of the Chelsea bombing that injured 29 two weeks ago.

A report released in July by the Government Accountability Office found the Nuclear Regulatory Commission screens companies that purchase large amounts of radioactive materials, which are known as “category 1” and “category 2,” and tracks the sales.

However, when it comes to “category 3” materials, which have small amounts of radiation and are used in industrial settings like logging, there is no scrutiny, which the Democratic U.S. senator said could lead to suspicious people or groups amassing enough of the material to inflict serious damage and joked the ingredients for a dirty bomb could be as easy as getting cake flour.

“Allowing a loophole in one of these [radioactive] categories is as bad as allowing a loophole in all of them,” Schumer said.

In July, the GAO established three dummy companies and purchased category 3 radioactive material, which the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental nonprofit, said “could possibly be fatal to be close to this amount of unshielded radioactive material for a period of days to weeks.”

In fact, the GAO secured enough category 3 material to make a higher-grade radioactive combination that could be used as a dirty bomb.

The NRC didn’t return messages for comment, but in the past said it is working to close the loopholes.

Schumer said he pushed them to work faster, especially since the Chelsea bombing suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, was able to easily buy enough nonradioactive material for the devices he allegedly placed in Manhattan and New Jersey.

“I’m lighting a fire under them,” the senator said. “This has to move forward A-S-A-P.”