NUCLEAR POWER CORPORATION -CORPORATE OFFICE-DELHI
Dr P.K Iyer,Director, looked at the old report rustled up by his fuel shipment security group from the archives.The first shipment of australian imported uranium oxide was expected in a months time .While there was nothing new in the report in view of global war on terror he thought it best to e-mail the article to ministry of defense ,ministry of home and prime ministers office .That done he sipped the mornings 3rd cup of filter coffee
and got ready for the first days series of meetings .He did not bother to highlight the security aspect of the threat nor did he follow up the matter next morning and forgot about it by the day after.
FAS Public Interest Report
The Journal of the Federation of American Scientists March / April 2002
Volume 55, Number 2
FAS Home | Download PDF | PIR Archive
Dirty Bombs: Response to a Threat
Making Sense of Information Restrictions After September 11
The "War on Terror" and the "War on Drugs": A Comparison
Results of the FAS Member Survey
FAS Staff News
Dirty Bombs: Response to a Threat
Henry Kelly testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 6, 2002 on the threat of radiological attack by terrorist groups. This excerpt is taken from the text of his written testimony, based on analysis by Michael Levi, Robert Nelson, and Jaime Yassif, which can be found by clicking here.
Surely there is no more unsettling task than considering how to defend our nation against individuals and groups seeking to advance their aims by killing and injuring innocent people. But recent events make it necessary to take almost inconceivably evil acts seriously. Our analysis of this threat has reached three principle conclusions:
1. Radiological attacks constitute a credible threat. Radioactive materials that could be used for such attacks are stored in thousands of facilities around the US, many of which may not be adequately protected against theft by determined terrorists. Some of this material could be easily dispersed in urban areas by using conventional explosives or by other methods.
2. While radiological attacks would result in some deaths, they would not result in the hundreds of thousands of fatalities that could be caused by a crude nuclear weapon. Attacks could contaminate large urban areas with radiation levels that exceed EPA health and toxic material guidelines.
3. Materials that could easily be lost or stolen from US research institutions and commercial sites could contaminate tens of city blocks at a level that would require prompt evacuation and create terror in large communities even if radiation casualties were low. Areas as large as tens of square miles could be contaminated at levels that exceed recommended civilian exposure limits. Since there are often no effective ways to decontaminate buildings that have been exposed at these levels, demolition may be the only practical solution. If such an event were to take place in a city like New York, it would result in losses of potentially trillions of dollars.
Significant amounts of radioactive materials are stored in laboratories, food irradiation plants, oil drilling facilities, medical centers, and many other sites. Cobalt-60 and cesium-137 are used in food disinfection, medical equipment sterilization, and cancer treatments. During the 1960s and 1970s the federal government encouraged the use of plutonium in university facilities studying nuclear engineering and nuclear physics. Americium is used in smoke detectors and in devices that find oil sources.
With the exception of nuclear power reactors, commercial facilities do not have the types or volumes of materials usable for making nuclear weapons. Facility owners provide adequate security when they have a vested interest in protecting commercially valuable material. However, once radioactive materials are no longer needed and costs of appropriate disposal are high, security measures become lax, and the likelihood of abandonment or theft increases.
We must wrestle with the possibility that sophisticated terrorist groups may be interested in obtaining these materials and with the enormous danger to society that such thefts might present. Significant quantities of radioactive material have been lost or stolen from US facilities during the past few years and thefts of foreign sources have led to fatalities. In the US, sources have been found abandoned in scrap yards, vehicles, and residential buildings.
If these materials were dispersed in an urban area, they would pose a serious health hazard. Intense sources of gamma rays can cause acute radiation poisoning, or even fatalities at high doses. Long-term exposure to low levels of gamma rays can cause cancer. If alpha emitters, such as plutonium, americium or other elements, are present in the environment in particles small enough to be inhaled, these particles can become lodged in the lungs and damage tissue, leading to long-term cancers.