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U.S. is short on labs for 'dirty bomb' testing

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. has a shortage of laboratories to test the thousands of people who might be exposed to radiation if a "dirty bomb" detonated in a major city, according to a recent congressional investigation.

The federal government established 15 disaster scenarios for federal, state and local officials to plan for, including one in which a dirty bomb goes off in a major downtown area and potentially exposes 100,000 people to radioactive materials.

A dirty bomb would contain some radioactive material that could cause contamination over a limited area but not create actual nuclear explosions.

Should this happen in real life, the nation would not be able to quickly conduct tests for these people, because there are few labs capable of doing so in the country; and the tests available only address six of the 13 radiological isotopes that would likely be used in a dirty bomb, according to the report prepared for the House Committee on Science and Technology. Instead, it would take four years to complete all these tests, according to the report to be released today.