The Role of the Health Physicist in Nuclear Security
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Health physics is a recognized safety function in the holistic context of the protection of workers, members of the public, and the environment against the hazardous effects of ionizing radiation, often generically designated as radiation protection. The role of the health physicist as protector dates back to the Manhattan Project. Nuclear security is the prevention and detection of, and response to, criminal or intentional unauthorized acts involving or directed at nuclear material, other radioactive material, associated facilities, or associated activities. Its importance has become more visible and pronounced in the post 9/11 environment, and it has a shared purpose with health physics in the context of protection of workers, members of the public, and the environment. However, the duties and responsibilities of the health physicist in the nuclear security domain are neither clearly defined nor recognized, while a fundamental understanding of nuclear phenomena in general, nuclear or other radioactive material specifically, and the potential hazards related to them is required for threat assessment, protection, and risk management. Furthermore, given the unique skills and attributes of professional health physicists, it is argued that the role of the health physicist should encompass all aspects of nuclear security, ranging from input in the development to implementation and execution of an efficient and effective nuclear security regime. As such, health physicists should transcend their current typical role as consultants in nuclear security issues and become fully integrated and recognized experts in the nuclear security domain and decision making process. Issues regarding the security clearances of health physics personnel and the possibility of insider threats must be addressed in the same manner as for other trusted individuals; however, the net gain from recognizing and integrating health physics expertise in all levels of a nuclear security regime far outweighs any negative aspects. In fact, it can be argued that health physics is essential in achieving an integrated approach toward nuclear safety, security, and safeguards.
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