Ebook: Response to Nuclear and Radiological Terrorism
This book presents the results of the workshop “Response to Nuclear and Radiological Terrorism”, organized by the NATO Center of Excellence - Defence Against Terrorism (COE-DAT) in Ankara, Turkey, January 2010, under the sponsorship of the Science for Peace and Security Programme. This international workshop brought together academics, experts and military professionals to discuss and exchange views on the current threat from terrorist organizations which may attempt to use nuclear or radiological devices to achieve their goals. The workshop, and this book, also address the measures that international, regional and national organizations must implement in order to mitigate these threats, as well as the eventual management of the consequences in the event that such a device should be successfully exploited. The workshop consisted of six panels: What is Nuclear Terrorism?; Assessing the Threat of Nuclear Materials in Terror; How to Prevent Nuclear and Radiological Terrorist Attacks; International Cooperation on Preventing Acts of Nuclear/Radiological Terrorism and Future Trends and lastly; Concepts in Defence Against Nuclear Terrorism. These were supported by 18 lecturers from various institutions around the world. The arguments and insights of the authors whose essays are collected here mean that this book will be of great interest to all those involved in dealing with the potential threat of nuclear or radiological terrorist attacks and their consequences.
This study is the result of the “Response to Nuclear and Radiological Terrorism” workshop conducted by the NATO Center of Excellence - Defence Against Terrorism (COE-DAT) on 14-15 January 2010 in Ankara, Turkey, under the sponsorship of Science for Peace and Security Programme. The aim of the workshop was to bring together academics, experts and military professionals to discuss, and exchange views on the current threat of terrorist organizations using nuclear or radiological devices to achieve their goals, the measures that international, regional and national organizations have to take to in order to mitigate this, as well as the management of the consequences in case of such events.
The Center of Excellence - Defense Against Terrorism was established in 2005 with the purpose of supporting NATO on defense issues related to terrorism. In addition to the framework nation, Turkey, there are currently seven other sponsoring nations, namely, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungaria, the Netherlands, Romania, United Kingdom and United States contribute to the activities of the Center by providing staff as well as funding. COE-DAT organizes numerous workshops, seminars, and courses every year with the goal of advancing academic, institutional and practical knowledge, expertise and information on terrorism for interested parties in NATO member States, Partner for Peace (PfP), and Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) countries, as well as other nations.
The Workshop comprised of 6 panels: What is Nuclear Terrorism?, Assessing the Threat of Nuclear Materials in Terror, How to Prevent Nuclear and Radiological Terrorist Attacks, International Cooperation on Preventing Acts of Nuclear/Radiological Terrorism and Future Trends, Concepts in Defence Against Nuclear Terrorism, and was supported by 18 lecturers from various institutions around the world.
The merit of this volume is ultimately due to the arguments and insights of the authors whose essays are collected here. We are grateful to them for their contributions to this volume.
It used to be said that terrorists were interested in activities that would have everybody watching, and not make everybody dead. In the intervening years, the threat has evolved, so that in the wake of 9/11, the Madrid and London bombings, and even the Aum Shinrikyo Sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system, we know that it may be merely a question of time before Al Qaeda, or any one of many ever-mutating groups seeks not only to acquire mass casualty weapons, but use them. By “WMD” (or mass casualty weapon), I mean specifically nuclear explosives, biological agents (including agents that attack plants or farm animals), chemical weapons, and the spreading of radioactive material.
Of these four plagues of modern civilization, radiological weapons are very likely to cause the fewest fatalities, and nuclear weapons almost certainly have the greatest potential for killing many people. Chemical and radiological weapons, as a rule, would likely reduce to mere nuisances by comparison with the probable consequences of using an advanced biological agent or, worse, a crude fission bomb such as that dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) also known as “unconventional weapons” possess the capacity to inflict death on a massive scale. First and foremost, nuclear weapons are the most destructive of all because they are explosive devices that release huge amounts of energy and lethal radiation as a result of a self-sustained chain reaction achieved by splitting atoms of fissile material, either Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) or Plutonium. Second, chemical weapons and toxic chemical agents in liquid or gas forms can cause incapacitation, injury or even death in the targeted population. Third, biological weapons are infectious diseases that cause incapacitation or death in the target population by causing serious illnesses. Although a worldwide norm has been established which prohibits use and even possession of nuclear weapons, for biological weapons and chemical weapons the full implementation still has not been achieved. Today, a world with WMDs is more dangerous since as countries proliferate further, then the possibility of non-state actors' acquisition of WMD capabilities increases parallel to it.
From the time of their creation in 1945, until relatively recently, nuclear weapons were the province of great powers. By definition and as a matter of practical reality, states that possessed nuclear weapons were great powers, and only great powers could marshal the resources necessary to attain them.
Several forces, however, are now converging to undermine not only the great power monopoly on nuclear weapons, but the very idea that only nation-states can acquire such devastating power. That Al Qaeda seeks to acquire nuclear weapons and would not hesitate to use them is, unfortunately, a 21st century reality. Al Qaeda, however, is not the only terrorist group to have sought nuclear weapons. The apocalyptic cult Aum Shinrikyo contemplated acquiring nuclear weapons before launching a deadly nerve gas attack in Tokyo's subway in 1995.
A key to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons is controlling the fissile materials-Highly Enriched Uranium and plutonium-which form the core of nuclear weapons. If terrorists or rogue states are to acquire nuclear weapons, they must make, steal, or buy such material. Each of these disparate paths entails different challenges.
In today’s world terrorism has become a constant feature of daily life in almost every corner of the world. Terrorist attacks regularly take hundreds of lives and often times dominate the daily news. These attacks, however, pale in comparison to the devastation of a terrorist attack with a nuclear weapon. There are generally two types of nuclear devices accessible to a terrorist group: a radiological dispersal device (RDD) or an improvised nuclear device (IND).
As a result, NATO is building capacities within and without the Alliance to meet the threat of nuclear terrorism. It is constantly working with allied nations and partners to meet this challenge, but more work is required. This paper discusses the nature of the nuclear terror threat, what the Alliance is doing both unilaterally and multilaterally, and proposes areas for further cooperation and improvement.
In the decade since September 11, 2001, a terrorist attack using radiological materials-usually referred to as a “dirty bomb,” but actually encompassing other means of dispersal-has sometimes seemed inevitable. But terrorists have not yet carried out such an attack. Not only do many groups lack the motivation to engage in radiological terrorism, but these types of attacks also require technical, logistical, and financial means beyond those needed for terrorism using conventional methods. This article seeks to address technical questions associated with radiological terrorism. It first presents a summary of the commercially available radioactive sources, dispersal methods, and exposure pathways that could be deployed in a radiological attack. It then critically assesses the simulation-driven, open source research that has been done in the past ten years in the United States. The article goes on to note the estimated effects of a radiological attack according to these studies, with an emphasis on the motivations for, lessons derived from, and misconceptions or shortcomings contained in the various attack scenarios. Finally, the article draws conclusions and implications for the prevention and mitigation of radiological terrorism based on these studies and their respective limits, which mainly consist of technical, scope, and design limits or omissions, and suggests areas for further inquiry.
The nuclear/radiological terrorist attack probability seems a serious brainteaser in the contemporary security discourse, and transnational terrorist groups have been employing modern scientific know-how to accomplish their nefarious objectives. Since 1995, there have been several cases, which underscore the fact that the terrorist groups could have access to–and no scruples about using–weapon of mass destruction materials. Nuclear materials range from highly enriched uranium in nuclear power reactors and military stockpiles to plutonium in a nuclear reactor's spent fuels, to radiological sources in local hospitals and agriculture research centers. If nuclear materials or radioactive sources fall into the hands of terrorist groups, it engenders enormous harm to human life and property. As a consequence, to counter radiological/nuclear terrorist attacks effectively standards for securing weapons and materials should be so high that terrorists will not be able to exploit any compromises or gaps in the defenses. That's why all countries with nuclear material holdings have to apply the most up-to-date IAEA guidelines on nuclear security.
The entire spectrum of threats caused by terrorists is vast, therefore this paper is focused on CBRN threats only. These issues have been frequently described in various documents but despite this, it might be beneficial to recall some general facts. Furthermore, although the main effort should be focused on nuclear and radiological issues, it could be worthwhile to mention some elementary points associated with the entire WMD family, principally due to the similarity of how to respond to them and especially because chemical and biological threats are usually assumed to be more probable. According to a WMD commission finding, there are three main categories of threat which are valid for all WMD varieties: from existing weapons, from their spread to additional states (proliferation), and from their possible acquisition or use by terrorists.
In this context, the aim of NATO is, to secure population, territory and forces from all CBRN threats. These tasks should be achieved via three pillars: preventing the proliferation of WMDs, protecting against WMD attacks or CBRN events, and recovering from WMD attacks or CBRN events.
“Nuclear terrorism” refers to a number of different ways nuclear materials might be exploited as a terrorist tactic. These include attacking nuclear facilities, purchasing nuclear weapons, or building such weapons or otherwise finding ways to disperse radioactive materials. For the latter extremists could exploit radioactive materials by creating a “dirty bomb” or a Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD), by loading a conventional bomb with radioactive materials, which would disperse when the bomb exploded.
How Much Expertise Does It Take To Make a Dirty Bomb? Not much more than it takes to make a conventional bomb. No special assembly is required; the regular explosive would simply disperse the radioactive material packed into the bomb. The hard part is acquiring the radioactive material, not building the bomb. On the other hand, counterterrorism experts say that the relative ease of constructing such weapons makes them a particularly worrisome threat.
Various threats to civilization have been recently observed to increase in number. They include natural and man-induced catastrophes, international terrorism, ecological imbalance, global climate change and many other hazards. The situation is aggravated by the fact that a number of catastrophes may be caused by deliberate attacks of terrorists. Therefore, it is necessary to develop intensively and implement new special methodologies, techniques and approaches aimed at elaborating methods to forecast large natural and man-induced catastrophes as well as to prevent and eliminate their consequences. For several years IBRAE RAS has been running systematic research on ecological risks associated with environmental contamination and its health effects (http://ibrae.ac.ru). The methodology created is recommended by international organizations, such as WHO, UNEP, Russian Health Ministry and used presently in Europe and the USA. Models have been developed for the migration of contaminants into the environment and their entering a human body, as well as methods for estimating risk factors, including comparative analysis for radiation and chemical risks. The obtained results in the article on Central Asia and Caucasian regions may be used for analysis of the similar objects and situations in other countries.
After the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, the European Union set up Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS), and the following year created the TACIS Nuclear Safety Program.
Since its inception, the program has been contributing to an improvement of nuclear safety in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) by transferring technology and know-how and establishing fail-safe mechanisms that have collectively contributed to the improvement of nuclear power plants and the avoidance of accidents in the years since Chernobyl.
Nuclear safety considerations also extend to the mining of uranium, the production and safe transport of nuclear fuel, handling of fresh and spent fuel and the storage, treatment and safe disposal of nuclear waste products and emergency preparedness and management.
These areas have been covered by the program together with a number of security related aspects such as assistance to safeguarding nuclear material (in order to prevent nuclear terrorism) and redirecting thousands of former weapons scientists, technicians and support staff to peaceful activities.
Since the September 11 attacks, the international community has realized that terrorist groups exist with the intent, and the capacity to some extent, to inflict deaths on a massive scale, which may be by using Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), namely biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. In addition, the use of a “dirty bomb”-a radiological weapon-would be a much easier option for the non-state actors.
One sure way to eliminate the possibility, and thus the probability of terrorism with nuclear and radiological weapons would be to eliminate the availability of all nuclear and radiological material to keep them away from the reach of the terrorist groups. The long-term objective must be to achieve “Global Zero” in nuclear weapons and for this to happen the nuclear non-proliferation efforts should not only focus on the supply side, through maintaining and strengthening measures designed to make it as difficult as possible for states to buy or build such weapons, but also should focus on the demand side efforts to convince states that nuclear weapons no longer address their security needs.