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Credibility of the threat from a radiological dispersal device by terrorists within the United States

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Technical Report

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US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth United States

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A radiological dispersal device RDD employed within the United States US could cause injury or death, create public panic, incur large cleanup costs, and disrupt governance and commerce. Shortly after the attack on September 11, there was much speculation within media and government about the threat of an RDD employed within the US. Although media interest eventually turned to other news, the question remained How credible is the threat of an RDD employed by terrorists within the US This research compared five case studies to analyze motivations, RDD effects, accessibility of radioactive materials, and obstacles to RDD employment. The five case studies include Al Qaedas pursuit of RDDs or nuclear devices a Chechen rebel radiological attack in Ismailovsky Park the attempt by the Radiological Boy Scout to construct a breeder reactor the Samut Prakarn, Thailand cobalt-60 accident and the Chernobyl reactor accident. Trends emerging from cross-case analysis identified challenges and opportunities from a terrorist perspective. The study concluded that improved intelligence and investigations, improvements in radiological source security, and the deployment of a detection architecture have so far deterred RDD employment. However, to prevent a future RDD attack, support of programs to prevent or thwart radiological terrorism should continue.

Subject Categories:

  • Chemical, Biological and Radiological Warfare

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