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A Pilot Examination of the Methods Used to Counteract Insider Threat Security Risks Associated with the Use of Radioactive Materials in the Research and Clinical Setting

Tsenov, B.G.*; Emery, R.J.*; Whitehead, L.W.*; Gonzalez, J., Reingle*; Gemeinhardt, G.L.

doi: 10.1097/HP.0000000000000808
Operational Topic

While many organizations maintain multiple layers of security control methodologies to prevent outsiders from gaining unauthorized access, persons such as employees or contractors who have been granted legitimate access can represent an “insider threat” risk. Interestingly, some of the most notable radiological events involving the purposeful contamination or exposure of individuals appear to have been perpetrated by insiders. In the academic and medical settings, radiation safety professionals focus their security efforts on (1) ensuring controls are in place to prevent unauthorized access or removal of sources, and (2) increasing security controls for the unescorted accessing of large sources of radioactivity (known as “quantities of concern”). But these controls may not completely address the threat insiders represent when radioactive materials below these quantities are present. The goal of this research project was to characterize the methodologies currently employed to counteract the insider security threat for the misuse or purposeful divergence of radioactive materials used in the academic and medical settings. A web-based survey was used to assess how practicing radiation safety professionals in academic and medical settings anticipate, evaluate, and control insider threat security risks within their institutions. While all respondents indicated that radioactive sources are being used in amounts below quantities of concern, only 6 % consider insider threat security issues as part of the protocol review for the use of general radioactive materials. The results of this survey identify several opportunities for improvement for institutions to address security gaps.

*The University of Texas School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences, 1200 Pressler Street, Houston, TX 77030; †The University of Texas School of Public Health, Department of Management, Policy and Community Health, 1200 Pressler Street, Houston, TX 77030.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Boris Tsenov has over 15 years of experience in radiation safety. At his last position as a radiation safety specialist at the Environmental Health & Safety department of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston he supported the broad scope permit for the research and medical use of radioactive materials, medical and research use of x rays and lasers. He earned his doctorate of public health in occupational health from The University of Texas at Houston School of Public Health. He earned his M.S. in nuclear engineering from Sofia University. Currently, he lives in Germany and specializes in medical photonics. His email is

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