Radiological Threat to Public Safety
Radiation is a silent death sentence i.e.you cannot see, smell, or taste it.
When radiological material ends up in the wrong hands it can become a catastrophic weapon of mass destruction. The public’s security against radiological threats is in the hands of federal, state, and local government agencies. These agencies have the responsibility to regulate, mitigate, monitor, and respond to incidents involving sources of radiological materials. An analysis of current radiological threats will provide an improved understanding of potential and creditable radiological threats confronted by the public.
Radiological Threat to Public Safety Newswire (2011) states, “Less than one-third of the population feels they are prepared for a terrorist attack, specifically a radiological attack such as a dirty bomb; yet over eighty percent of Americans feel this type of threat is imminent”. Howard & Forest (2008), suggest that a terrorist radiological attack would come by way of a radiological dispersal devise (RDD) or a dirty bomb i. e. a bomb mixed with radiological material and conventional explosives (p. 90).
Oppenheimer (2008) states, “The threat of nuclear terrorism is far more likely from a radiological dispersal device (RDD)–a conventional IED laced with a radioisotope–than via a nuclear fission weapon”(para 1). Uranium and plutonium are well known elements used in nuclear devises. Howard et al. (2008) states, “Only uranium and a few other elements, notably plutonium, can be turned into explosive weapons, but many more elements emit radiation” (p. 90). Howard et al. (2008), states, “Two basic designs of crude nuclear explosives are likely to be adequate for most purposes of terrorist groups intent on nuclear terrorism”(p. 14). The first generation, gun-type nuclear explosive device is similar to the bomb that destroyed the city of Hiroshima, Japan.
This is the simplest crude devise to design and construct with a powerful nuclear explosion (Howard et al. 2008, p. 114). The United States Department of Health and Human Services (2011) stipulates that the first step in understanding creditable radiation emergencies is to “draw the distinction between a nuclear event (like the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan) and a radiological event, such as a nuclear power plant incident or a radiological dispersal device (e. . , dirty bomb)”. The following is suggested credible nuclear and radiological events. Nuclear Events; * Produces a nuclear detonation involving the joining (fusion) or splitting (fission) of atoms to produce an intense pulse or wave of heat, light, air pressure, and radiation.
* Highly destructive explosion that instantly devastates people and buildings because of extreme heat and impact of the blast. * Leaves large amounts of radioactivity and fallout behind. Radiological Events; * May involve explosion and release of radioactivity, but no nuclear fission. Typically, have less radioactivity released than in a nuclear event. In both events, the wind direction along with the weather patterns can spread radioactivity over a wide area (DHHS, 2008). Oppenheimer (2008), stipulated that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) suggested that “From 1993 to 2004, there were more than 400 confirmed incidents of trafficking materials–arrests and seizures involving radioactive sources–that could only be used to produce a RDD”(para 5). According to Howard et al. (2008) “no terrorist group has ever fielded or deployed a nuclear devise”(p. 110).
However, Oppenheimer (2008) states, “Only one RDD incident is known: A dynamite bomb laced with cesium-137, a radioisotope used widely in medicine, was planted by Chechen separatists in a Moscow park in December 1995” (para 3). Authorities were able to find the terrorist RDD before it was detonated (Oppenheimer, 2008, para 3). The premise is evident i. e. terrorist organizations have the capability to obtain and deploy a RDD. Howard et al. (2008) suggest, “A homemade nuclear device, although crude and less efficient than a state military weapon, could very well serve the needs of a terrorist group” (p. 113).
Bullock, Haddow, Coppola, & Yeletaysi (2009), describe different types of terrorist events that might include the use of radioactive material. * Introducing radioactive material into the food or water supply. * Using explosives to scatter radioactive materials. * Bombing or destroying a nuclear facility. * Exploding a small nuclear device” (p. 187). Oppenheimer (2008) described and highlighted the unpredictable radiological poisoning of a former “KBG agent Alexander Litvinenko by polonium-210 in London in November 2006 “(para 6). This type of radiation, once inhaled or ingested, will cause an illness that is slow and painful.
The contamination spread as the Litvinenko moved about London and beyond (Oppenheimer, 2008, para 6). According to Oppenheimer (2008), “The U. K. Health Protection Agency had the unenviable task of tracing and testing the urine of hundreds of potential contacts and arranging for them to be treated and counseled”(para 6). There were a total of 17 people who were contaminated with radiation at above-average levels (Oppenheimer, 2008, para 6). Oppenheimer (2008) suggests that “A growing number of smuggling cases since 2002 have involved radioisotopes used in civilian industries and medicine”(para 2).
Radioactive materials that are no longer considered useful in medicine could be used in building a RDD or a dirty bomb (The American Nuclear Society, 2005). Some agencies feel as though there has “not been enough of a concerted effort focused on the threat of a radiological attack such as a “dirty bomb” (Newswire, 2011). Oppenheimer (2008) describes four attempts at deploying RDD by Chechens i. e. “deploying an RDD and attacking a nuclear power plant, which are not well documented but are known within the EOD (explosives ordnance disposal) community”(para 1).
Hawley (2008) suggests, “The use of a pharmaceutical grade radioactive material attached to a pipe bomb would release radioactive material”. In addition this small amount of radiation could cause sickness over time. Howard et al. (2008) states, “Extended exposure to low-level radioactive material increases the likelihood of cellular destruction”(, p. 90). The low level of security at many of Russia’s nuclear power plants and abandoned Russian Northern Fleet submarines has also increased the risk of possible terrorist attacks or takeovers. “There still are about 120 subs with fueled reactors in need of disposal” (Oppenheimer, 2008, papa 2).
If a meltdown or explosion at a nuclear facility ever took place a large quantity of radioactive material would be released into the environment. Employees at the nuclear facility would likely be contaminated with radioactive particles to include injuries from the explosion itself. Individuals who received a large dose of radiation might develop acute radiation syndrome.Individuals in the surrounding area could be exposed or contamination and would need medical assists along with decontamination (Bullock, et al. 2009 p. 233). This huge concern and worry of radiological threats, voiced by the public, might not be credible.
This is based on research and analyses performed by numerous agencies. According to Bevelacqua & Stilp (2009), “Bombings involving storage facilities or transportation vehicle pose the greatest threat”(p. 60). Mitigating potential bombings of critical facilities and transportation is a challenge for federal, state and local agencies. Bevelacqua et al. (2009) states” A nuclear bomb threat is unlikely to be carries out for a number of reasons, including the extreme expense, its logistical difficulty, and the enormous amount of technology necessary to develop a disperse such a devise” (p. 9). Hawley (2008) states, “The use of an actual nuclear detonation device is unlikely and very improbable given security these materials have” (p. 233). The amount of nuclear material required for an extensive nuclear result and the particular type of material needed makes use unlikely (Hawley, 2008, p. 233). Bullock, et al. (2009) states “Although a dirty bomb could cause serious injuries from the explosion, it most likely would not have enough radioactive material in a form that would cause serious radiation sickness among large numbers of people.
Oppenheimer (2008) suggests, “There are numerous obstacles to overcome when weaponizing radioactive materials; the same devices that could be a threat to the public also pose potential threats to terrorists”(para 3). Howard et al. 2008, describe the seven myths identified about the threat of nuclear terrorism. 1. Terrorist want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead. 2. Nuclear material required to make a bomb are nearly impossible for terrorist to obtain. 3. Difficulties of constructing or stealing a nuclear bomb are unlikely by a terrorist group. 4.
The only way a terrorist organization could acquire a nuclear bomb is from a state. 5. The mistaken belief that it is possible to put in place around the United States and other major countries a security cordon that can reduce to a low level the risk that nuclear weapons and material might be smuggled in. 6. The notion that an offensive security posture alone will mitigate the threat of nuclear terrorism. 7. A number of states analysts argue that states would not be especially interested in a stolen nuclear or stolen material to make one, because they want to produce the material for as many nuclear weapons as they need (p. 02). According to Shaw (2001) “Most studies of preventing terrorist nuclear attacks have reached the same basic conclusion–none of the available basic techniques is sufficiently capable to preclude a successful attack with a high degree of confidence” (p 3).
The following are the seven suggested basic techniques: 1. Arms control and related diplomatic measures to control proliferation and access to technology and materials for making nuclear weapons. 2. Physical security and control of existing weapons and materials. 3. Pre-emptive actions. . Deterrent threats of retaliation for attacks. 5. Border controls and related domestic security measures aimed at preventing the movement of weapons or materials into the US. 6. Intelligence collection and law enforcement measures leading to the discovery and apprehension of would-be perpetrators. 7. Effective consequence control and mitigation—still a long way from reality—could be at best a distant second in desirability. Public education on the effects of radiation might allow for understanding the credibility of radiological events.
Hawley (2008) states, “Education on hazards of radiation and the effective use of radiation monitors can ease this fear” (p. 234). There are organizations established to educate radiological protection, challenges, and issues. The Newswire (2011) states, “The Radiological Threat Awareness Coalition (R-TAC) was established to increase awareness and preparedness in this country against a possible radiological attack such as a “dirty bomb”(para 1) This synergistic awareness and preparedness was validated successfully by London government agencies responding to prevented a radiological event from becoming catastrophe.
Oppenheimer (2008) suggests that the “London incident response demonstrate that government agencies could rapidly adapt to an unprecedented situation”(para 6). This radiological event also showed that nuclear events are all but impossible to predict. Conclusion The mitigation of nuclear weapons issues remain a heighten concern by free nations. The management of the existing stockpiles in the former Soviet Union continues to be a challenge in addition to the activities of the other governments that control nuclear weapons and demonstrate troublesome behavior especially, Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran (Banks, Nevers, & Wallerstein, 2008, p. 7). According to Hawley (2008) “there is currently speculation that there are some small nuclear devises missing from Russia; but this has never been substantiated” (p. 233). However, the fear of missing nuclear devises is a weapon itself. According to Hawley (2008), there is an advantage to a noncredible RDD or a small RDD, and that is the public’s reaction. The public’s perception, and first responders, is that this event would be a radioactive disaster.
However, the reality is that the amount of the radiation would not be dangerous, and as time passed, the danger would lessen as the radioactive material decayed to a lesser hazard. Radiation is one of the big unknowns and cause of fear because it is unknown. This fear makes radiation a key weapon for a terrorist organization. Given this analysis, the question continues to be asked. Is there a credible radiological threat? The answer is yes or maybe no. Either way terrorist organizations have instilled fear of possible radiological events in our nation’s future.