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Chairman Linder Holds Hearing on Nuclear Incident Response Teams

Location: Washington, DC


Washington, D.C. - On October 27, 2005, Congressman John Linder (R-GA), Chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Prevention of Nuclear and Biological Attack, held a hearing on "Nuclear Incident Response Teams." Nuclear Incident Response Teams (NIRT) have been described as "America's nuclear SWAT teams." They are highly specialized groups trained and equipped to detect and prevent nuclear and radiological attacks. The hearing examined the team's capabilities, how they operate, and how its assets are incorporated into the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) overall strategy for preventing a nuclear or radiological terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

The NIRT, codified by the 2002 Homeland Security Act (P.L. 107-296), consists of specialized personnel drawn from the Departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DoD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), depending on the particulars of the mission. NIRT members are on call 24 hours a day for worldwide deployment to locate a suspected nuclear or radiological device and, when found, disarm it. Preventing a nuclear explosion from occurring is their core mission.

NIRT's core consists of the Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST). These teams possess specialized capabilities for search and identification of nuclear materials, diagnostics and assessment of suspected nuclear devices, technical operations to disarm a device, and packaging of nuclear materials for transport to a disposal site.

"While Nuclear Incident Response Teams have existed in one form or another for many years, their work has never been more vital than it is now," Linder said. "The possibility of a terrorist nuclear attack is at an all time high. We must ensure that as DHS expands its nuclear detection capabilities at the borders and elsewhere it is fully engaged with long standing programs such as those of NIRT. We must do all we can to detect fissile material smuggling, and, should that material be in the form of an explosive device, be prepared to render it inoperable immediately."

Witnesses at today's hearing included: Rear Admiral (Ret.) Joseph Krol, Associate Administrator, Emergency Operations, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), U.S. Department of Energy; and Mr. John E. Lewis, Deputy Assistant Director, Counterterrorism Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice.

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