The U.S. Office of Radiological Security has new ways to decide which countries are good candidates for swapping out machines used to treat cancer and thus reducing the possibility of theft of nuclear and radiological material that could be used to make weapons.
La Follette School students analyzed a proposal to facilitate the exchange of cobalt-60 teletherapy units in low- and-middle-income countries for more advanced linear accelerator radiotherapy machines from United States and other high-income countries. They produced their report as part of the spring Workshop in International Public Affairs taught by Melanie Manion.
“The purpose of exchanging the teletherapy units is to prevent theft or diversion of cobalt-60 for use in dirty bombs,” says Andrea Traverse, one of the authors. “Low-and-middle-income countries need outside resources to move toward adopting the more technologically complex and resource intensive linear accelerator units. Our analysis delineates requirements for a viable exchange.”
Traverse, David Albino, Debaki Ale, Asma Easa, Matthew Mayeshiba and Alex Straka identified stakeholders and criteria salient to the proposed initiative and its long-term success. Stakeholders include international governmental organizations, national governments, private sector corporations, actors within the medical community and non-governmental organizations, the report notes. Stakeholders are relevant at different stages, including budgeting and planning, installation and disposal.
The Office of Radiological Security is part of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which brought the students to Washington, D.C., in May to present their recommendations. They also presented at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at an event called Intersection of Public Health and Radiological Cancer Treatment in Resource-Constrained Environments.
“The NNSA presentation was a great opportunity,” Straka says. “Both audiences were very interested in our research and the proposed initiative.”