An attack that deliberately disrupts or damages a nuclear facility—through a physical attack, a cyber attack, or a combination—could result in the release of radiation that would sicken those living in the area and cause significant environmental and economic damage.
Many countries have taken steps individually and collectively to decrease the threat posed by radiological terrorism by securing commercial radiological sources. One of the most well-known initiatives is the U.
What’s the Difference Between a Dirty Bomb and a Nuclear Bomb?
How missiles, bombers and drones raise the stakes of weapons of mass destruction and disruption. Read more. The Radiological Threat Radioactive "dirty bombs" are weapons of mass disruption. Sabotage A malicious release of radiation at a nuclear power plant or research facility also poses and threat and could cause damage on a similar scale to that caused during the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan.
Of course, despite recurring terrorist attacks in the Arab world and Northern Africa, Europe, and the United States, the odds are still low that terrorists will acquire radioactive materials. But the stakes—large-scale mass death and radiation poisoning—are so high that preventing dirty bomb proliferation should be a first priority. An in-depth investigation into dirty bombs by the Associated Press revealed four other attempts by criminal networks to traffic radioactive materials through Moldova. Last spring, in a New York federal court, another perpetrator, this time a Colombian national, was convicted for obtaining enriched uranium with the purpose of supplying a South American—based terrorist group with a dirty bomb to attack U.
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In-depth analysis delivered weekly - Subscribe to our newsletter, featuring our editors' top picks from the past week. The report goes on:. Some experts believe that terrorists could, without great difficulty, obtain radioactive material and construct an RDD…others assert that radiation sources intense enough to cause casualties in an RDD attack would be injurious to the terrorists during acquisition and use.
The Biggest Threat Dirty Bombs Pose is Panic
Most experts agree that few casualties would be likely to directly result, generally only among those close to the device, but many disagree on how attractive an RDD would be to a terrorist. Other experts claim that terrorists recognize the potential economic and psychological effects of such a weapon and thus more highly value RDDs as terror weapons.
The argument about terrorists falling victim to their own destructive device is viewed by some as superfluous. Or, as one authority suggested, do those who compile these reports not read the daily newspapers?
Islamic zealots have proved many times in recent years that no matter what the risk — radiation sickness or otherwise — they would be happy to die for the cause in order to achieve their objectives. But as frightening as this is, RDDs might more accurately be referred to as weapons of mass disruption than weapons of mass destruction. In a large RDD blast within the confines of a city, there would obviously be a number of casualties, including people exposed to the actual blast who would succumb to the effects of the chemical explosion, as would be the case with a conventional bomb and the shrapnel that it disperses.
Though at the same time, the number of casualties would not be nearly as many as some authorities like to predict: a major bomb in downtown Chicago or Berlin would result in hundreds rather than thousands of casualties, of which only a limited number would die. Furthermore, according to Dr von Wielligh, who has studied the likely outcome of such an attack, it is extremely unlikely that there would be such a vast amount of radioactive material in the immediate vicinity of an RDD blast that people would die right there from radiation.
Acute radiation effects — including death - would only appear in the days, weeks or months that followed the exposure. The main purpose of an RDD is to contaminate the surroundings and to disrupt normal commercial and other activities for an extended period. Dr Mike Foley is a geologist who has made a career of specialising in nuclear-related issues. In other words, the real issue might not be the explosiveness of such weapons but rather their potential to create multiple no-go areas. It might not only take an inordinately long time to counter the effects of serious radiation resulting from such a bomb, but the entire area would have to be quarantined, certainly for many months and, depending on both the nature of radioactive material employed and quantity, possibly for years.
Were it to happen outside the Bank of England in London, for instance, the level of radiation would be the ultimate deciding factor.
Related Effects of a Radiation-Dispersal Device [dirty bomb]
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