Accession Number:

ADA463566

Title:

Transcendental Terrorism and Dirty Bombs: Radiological Weapons Threat Revisited

Descriptive Note:

Monograph

Corporate Author:

AIR WAR COLL MAXWELL AFB AL CENTER FOR STRATEGY AND TECHNOLOGY

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:

2006-02-01

Pagination or Media Count:

70.0

Abstract:

This paper analyzes the potential for terrorists to employ radiological weapons against the United States and makes recommendations for countering the gaps in security that terrorists will exploit while embarking on such an endeavor. The papers primary hypothesis is that radiological dispersion devices, contrary to popular contemporary analysis, possess extreme lethal potential. When combined with the prevalent trend for terrorists to maximize the death and destruction associated with their attacks, radiological dispersion devices, unlike other weapons of mass destruction, offer a unique opportunity as radioactive material is readily available and requires unsophisticated technology and knowledge to weaponize. A fictional scenario backed by calculations is used to demonstrate the lethal potential of a series of covert attacks employing radiological weapons. The paper analyzes the motivations for why terrorists are willing to use weapons of mass destruction and why radiological weapons are a more likely candidate for employment over nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Additionally, the relative ease with which radiological weapons of this nature can be fabricated and the ready availability of appropriate radioactive sources is explained. Finally, the paper concludes that securing the life cycle of radioactive sources through legislation, regulation, and international agreements is the best method for preventing terrorists access to those radioactive sources which are most dangerous and capable of weaponization. However, the paper also concludes that any legislative, regulatory, or agreement based solution will not protect the public in the near term and a nationwide system of radiation detectors is proposed as a possible solution for interdicting radiological weapons before they reach their targeted destination.

Subject Categories:

  • Chemical, Biological and Radiological Warfare
  • Unconventional Warfare
  • Radiation Pollution and Control

Distribution Statement:

APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE