The threat of radiological terrorism has recently come to the attention of the international community, as it became clear that terrorist organizations are seeking nuclear and radiological material to manufacture and use improvised nuclear devices (IND) and ‘dirty bombs’, and/or commit acts of sabotage against nuclear power infrastructure. But while nuclear weapons and INDs, still remain relatively secure from terrorist access, radiological material is more readily available in large quantities throughout the world. Also, radiological explosives or other dispersal devices are easier to manufacture and to use. Radiological dispersal devices (RDDs) come in many shapes and sizes; A dirty bomb uses a conventional explosion to scatter radioactive material; Terrorists could launch an attack by placing a container of radioactive material in a public place and an airplane can easily disperse radioactive material as a powder or an aerosol. On a grand scale, a nuclear facility could become an RDD. Intentional damage done to a nuclear power plant or other site could release radiation, contaminating the immediate surroundings or even beyond. RDDs of any kind present a potent and effective terrorist weapon because they threaten to expose civilian populaces to radiation – engendering panic out of proportion to the modest number of casualties likely to result from limited doses of radiation. Coming to terms with the psychological and social dimensions of radiological attacks – areas that are inadequately studied and assessed – is thus a matter of considerable importance for those entrusted with national, and ultimately international, security.
The threat of radiological terrorism has recently come to the attention of the international community, as it became clear that terrorist organizations are seeking nuclear and radiological material to manufacture and use improvised nuclear devices (IND) and “dirty bombs,” and/or commit acts of sabotage against nuclear power infrastructure. But while nuclear weapons and INDs, much deadliermore destructivestill remain relatively secure from terrorist access, radiological material is more readily available in large quantities throughout the world. Also, radiological explosives or other dispersal devices are easier to manufacture and use. There is, therefore, a much higher probability that an act of terrorism with the use of radiological material rather than nuclear explosion may occur in the future. According to a survey of more than 100 top foreign policy experts released in June 2006, the probability of attack using dirty bombs was rated at 20 percent followed by attack on chemical or nuclear plant (11 percent), chemical weapon attack (10 percent), biological weapon attack (9 percent), and nuclear weapon attack (6 percent).
Radiological dispersal devices (RDDs) come in many shapes and sizes. A dirty bomb uses a conventional explosion to scatter radioactive material over an area whose actual size is determined by a multitude of variables and hard to predict in real time. Terrorists could launch an attack by placing a container of radioactive material in a public place and allowing the airflow from the ventilation system to distribute it. An airplane can easily disperse radioactive material as a powder or an aerosol. On a grand scale, a nuclear facility could become an RDD. Intentional damage done to a nuclear power plant or other site could release radiation, contaminating the immediate surroundings or even beyond. RDDs of any kind present a potent and effective terrorist weapon because they threaten to expose civilian populaces to radiation – engendering panic out of proportion to the modest number of casualties likely to result from limited doses of radiation. Coming to terms with the psychological and social dimensions of radiological attacks – areas that are inadequately studied and assessed – is thus a matter of considerable importance for those entrusted with national, and ultimately international, security.
A successful campaign to educate the public about radiological terrorism must begin with scientifically credible and easily understood information about the potential threats. This paper provides the foundational information needed to understand radiological terrorism. In particular, the paper defines the different types of radiological attacks: dispersing radiation through using radiological dispersal devices or radiation emission devices or releasing radiation through attacks or sabotage of nuclear facilities such as nuclear power plants or plutonium reprocessing sites. Also, the paper examines the physical and psychological barriers terrorists confront when deciding whether to perpetrate an act of radiological terrorism. To date, few terrorist groups have expressed interest in radiological terrorism; however, it is important to understand that terrorist motivations are dynamic. Groups could become more or less attracted to radiological terrorism depending on internal and external influences, including the threat perceptions authorities broadcast to the public and terrorists.
Rafael V. Arutyunian, Leonid A. Bolshov, Oleg A. Pavlovskiy
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In this report, the authors present the main results of a systematic analysis of the factors predetermining potential threats and possible damage from radiological terrorism. The interplay of the factors, including technical, administrative, organizational, legal, radiological, social and economic, is considered extremely important in prioritizing preventive measures and response tasks. Examples of assessments of consequences scales under different scenarios of radiological terrorist attacks and social conditions are given.
This paper reviews the German system of preventing acts of radiological and nuclear terrorism and helping mitigate their potential social and psychological consequences. The paper describes the roles played by various German government agencies and institutions.
Radiological terrorism can use several modes of deploying radioactive substances in order to cause deliberate radiation exposure, ranging from the intentional covert exposure of large population groups to a strong gamma radiation source, to combining conventional explosives with a suitable radioisotope leading to the intentional dispersal of radioactive aerosols (dirty bomb). The deployment of a radiological dispersal device (RDD) by terrorists is likely to result in relatively low radiation exposure of the targeted population, in most cases insufficient to cause a severe radiation injury. Nevertheless, the social and psychological effects can be severe, particularly in an urban area where a large number of persons may either be actually contaminated or perceive to be contaminated. This paper focuses on the extensive experience gained in the aftermath of the radiological accident which contaminated the Brazilian city of Goiania in 1987. The incident showed the multiple practical difficulties encountered by the professionals and the authorities caring for the radiation victims and addressing the needs of those suspecting to be contaminated, and the reaction by the uncontaminated residents of Goiania. The results of this analysis are used to recommend practically applicable solutions from Lessons Learned:
• Decision-making criteria need to be defined for the early-, intermediate-, and long-term phase of managing the post-attack period, balancing radiation-psychosis, radiation doses, associated health risks, monetary costs and benefits;
• The targeted population needs to be informed early and in a comprehensible manner about clean-up criteria and site restoration concepts, such as exemption, clearance, authorized release, release for restricted use, and optimization in order to assist in calming public radiation fear;
• Proactive planning for optimi management is essential, since many countries are insufficiently prepared for integrating treatment of radiation psychosis with a post-attack dose minimization management;
• Trust-building measures among the inhabitants of the contaminated areas are essential from the onset of managing the aftermath of a radiological terror attack. The population living outside the RDD-affected area needs to be assured that the situation is truly under control by the authorities, e.g., with an adequate quality assurance program for the clean-up and restoration program;
• Authorized groups should be created that can issue certificates of integrity for products and services, thereby reducing the psychological impact of RDD-related terror attacks. Specialized people should be on standby to issue correct press releases, even before reporters arrive on the scene if possible.
For the almost 60 years that nuclear power has been used, three large-scale accidents with significant radioactive releases into the environment have occurred in the USSR and Russia. These include the accident at the industrial site of the Mayak facility in the South Urals in 1957, the Chernobyl accident in 1986, and the much less significant radiation incident at the Siberian chemical complex (Tomsk-7) in 1993. Apart from these, a radiation emergency developed in the South Urals during 1949–1952 due to discharges of liquid radioactive waste from the Mayak facility into the Techa River. Owing to this experience with these accidents, plenty of vital lessons have been learnt, including those concerning the consequences for the community. Socioeconomic and psychological aspects of past accidents have been investigated far less than radiological ones, though, and no serious scientific research has been conducted with regard to them. Nevertheless, it is possible to assert that the economic damage associated with public response to radioactive contamination is always of a much greater scale than the losses from contamination itself and the intervention costs. Let us consider the experience of the above-mentioned accidents from this standpoint.
This short paper discusses the little-known 1957 radiological incident in Kyshtym (USSR), which caused significant release of high-level radioactive waste into the environment, and necessitated protective measures for the public. Concealment of the event by the government from the general public between 1957 and 1989 resulted in a public outcry and an institution of a special federal program of remediation.
Governments and experts seeking to mitigate the social and psychological effects of radiological terrorism are working at a distinct disadvantage. While the public is the object of their concern, governmental strategies and plans are being developed without directly involving the public. Lacking that voice, do we really know what matters to people in this type of situation and what can be done to address the problems they would face? Do we fully appreciate the role that the public can play in contributing to response and recovery?
Recent efforts enabling the American people to speak for themselves reveal that we don't. This paper presents findings from the Redefining Readiness Study, which gave the American people their first opportunity to describe what they would face in trying to protect themselves in a dirty bomb explosion. It also presents the experiences of four American communities that are actively engaging their residents in developing and implementing strategies to respond to emergencies like a dirty bomb explosion. Both the study and the demonstrations uncover important differences in the way planners and the public think about radiological emergencies. Equally importantly, they document that community residents have valuable and practical insights which may hold the key to protecting as many people as possible should a radiological event occur.
Building on new community engagement methods developed by the Redefining Readiness demonstration sites, the paper describes how governments and communities can give the public a more active and meaningful role in emergency preparedness efforts. By giving the public an opportunity to think about emergencies in advance – and to put their own problem-solving abilities to use – this engagement process can help community residents build the resilience they need to cope with radiological terrorism and other emergencies. By enabling the general public, experts, and people from public and private organizations to combine what they know and can do, the process can help communities create conditions that minimize psychological damage and social disruption in emergencies. By enabling communities to identify and address the full range of risks that people face trying to protect themselves in emergencies, the process can lead to the development of preparedness plans that justify the public's trust and confidence.
This paper describes a threatening and insidious process occurring in Western societies like the United States, a process accelerated by the attacks of September 11, 2001. We are not only thinking less “outside the box” in finding new answers and solutions to our questions and problems, but the metaphorical box is shrinking as we further convince one another that man's salvation from adversities lies squarely in the furtherance of techniques and the technical management of the human condition where an excess of power is wielded by an ill-defined cadre of individuals commonly referred to as “experts.” The rest of us in turn often blindly comply with their recommendations in hopes that the human experience will improve without checking that power and influence with thoughtful independent thinking. This paper reflects a talk the author delivered at a NATO Advanced Research Workshop held in Bratislava, Slovakia in October 2006. An international audience discussing the psychological and social dimensions of radiological terrorism attended the conference, which the organizers hope to use as a launching pad to conduct further research into this facet of modern terrorism.
This Chapter explores the role attributed to science and technology in combating the global war on terror in an age when social bonds have been eroded and our sense of the need for social solutions diminished accordingly. One consequence of this is the exaggeration of risks presented by science and by terrorists to the point of ignoring the more mundane and probable threats that confront us. Prioritising technical means to build social resilience over cultural change is also likely to be counter-productive by further fragmenting the ordinary human bonds that actually make society truly resilient. A political debate over societal values is required if we are to re-engage the public and deal appropriately with all-manner of disasters, including terrorist attacks.
Acts of radiological terrorism represent perhaps the most effective, readily-available tool terrorist groups can use to cause panic, disrupt vital societal institutions, and inflict psychological damage on the public. The psychological effects of radiological terrorism would dwarf those created by most other potential terrorist weaponry because of radiophobia, lack of public involvement and awareness, and prevailing misconceptions. The psychological reaction to an act of radiological terrorism breaks down into three main categories: distress responses, behavioral changes, and psychiatric illnesses. One way to condition the public to the adversity of radiological terrorism is to provide more information, get it involved in preparedness programs, and to develop resilient culture. Resilient people bend rather than break during stressful conditions, and they return to their normal psychological and social functioning following misfortune.
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