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U.S.–Russian Collaboration in Combating Radiological Terrorism
“The radioactive materials needed to build a ‘dirty bomb’ can be found in almost any country in the world, and more than 100 countries may have inadequate control and monitoring programs necessary to prevent or even detect the theft of these materials…. ‘What is needed is cradle-to-grave control of powerful radioactive sources to protect them against … theft’.”
overview of the risks posed by RDDs and discusses global approaches to deal with those risks. The focus is on inadequately secured IRSs that could provide radioactive material. The discussion provides a context for subsequent consideration of developments in Russia and of U.S.-Russian cooperative programs to reduce the threat of radiological terrorism with roots in Russia. Also, other publications that address important global issues in greater detail are identified.
THE RADIOLOGICAL RISK
The committee concurs with the conclusions of the report Makingthe Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism, published in 2002 by the National Research Council (NRC), that detonation of an RDD would most likely result in only a few deaths but could have the potential for causing substantial economic damage and/or social disruption.2
Of course RDDs cannot trigger a nuclear explosion with its familiar mushroom cloud. Unlike nuclear weapons, they cannot kill tens to hundreds of thousands of people and obliterate a city instantly. Thus, the concept of radiological terrorism is quite different from the possible use of nuclear weapons, and linking the two threats can hinder efforts to properly define the risks and prevent such events.
NRC Committee on Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism. 2002. P. 49 in Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.