POOR MAN’S NU­CLEAR THREAT

Dirty bombs are too dan­ger­ous to ig­nore.

American Survival Guide - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Al J. Venter

Adecade ago, Strat­for’s Fred Bur­ton wrote that “… since the 9/11 at­tacks cat­a­pulted al-qaeda to the ‘top of the evil-do­ers' list’ in the United States, one con­stant ques­tion has re­mained: What is al Qaeda plan­ning now? High among the pub­lic's fears, fanned by cer­tain events widely re­ported in the me­dia, is that the Ji­hadi net­work (or an­other like-minded group or in­di­vid­ual) will un­leash a ra­di­o­log­i­cal dis­per­sion de­vice (RDD), com­monly re­ferred to as a ‘Dirty Bomb’ and it is fea­si­ble in­deed that it might hap­pen on Amer­i­can soil.”

Pun­dits in both Lon­don and Wash­ing­ton tell us there is an 80 per­cent chance of such a de­vice ex­plod­ing in ei­ther city within the medium-term fu­ture. That could mean any­thing from one to three years.

LINKS TO RAD­I­CAL IS­LAMISTS

The au­thor­i­ties con­cerned point to al-qaeda’s more-than-ad­e­quate record of be­ing able to cause mas­sive de­struc­tion. What is not gen­er­ally known is that this Is­lamic group has, for a long time, dis­played an un­usual in­ter­est in ac­quir­ing the ex­per­tise to build ex­actly such a de­vice.

Al­ready in 2002, CNN’S David En­sor re­ported that a hand-drawn di­a­gram of an RDD bomb had been found in an al-qaeda fa­cil­ity in the moun­tains south of Kabul. That was fol­lowed by for­mer CIA chief Ge­orge Tenet telling the

U.S. Con­gress that his peo­ple had un­cov­ered rudi­men­tary di­a­grams of an un­spec­i­fied nu­clear weapon in a sus­pected al-qaeda house in Kabul. The con­sen­sus is that it was Rdd-re­lated.

Tenet dis­closed that al-qaeda's nu­clear ef­fort ben­e­fited from the help of two Pak­istani nu­clear sci­en­tists, Sul­tan Bashirud­din Mah­mood and Chaudiri Ab­dul Majeed, both di­rectly linked to dis­graced Pak­istani nu­clear smug­gler Ab­dul Qadeer (A.Q.) Khan.

The two men ad­mit­ted they had long dis­cus­sions about de­vel­op­ing nu­clear weapons with al-qaeda of­fi­cials in Afghanistan the year be­fore—which kind of makes one think ... .

Pamela Falk, a United Na­tions res­i­dent cor­re­spon­dent, raised this ex­act is­sue in a For­eign Af­fairs “Snap­shot” pub­lished April 4, 2017. She summed up the threat in a sin­gle para­graph:

"The world’s post–world War II nu­clear non-pro­lif­er­a­tion com­mit­ments are crumb­ing. Na­tions large and small, some with stable gov­ern­ments, some with shaky or au­to­cratic regimes want to join the nu­clear club. An un­in­tended con­se­quence of this trend is the cre­ation of global gray and black mar­kets for ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial. And ter­ror­ist groups such as the Is­lamic State are ready to buy."

The very con­cept of this hor­rific threat is fright­en­ing, she sug­gested: a low-yield nu­clear de­vice det­o­nated by Is­lamic mil­i­tants in down­town Man­hat­tan—or, more likely (be­cause ac­cess from the Mid­dle East is eas­ier) in Lon­don’s Golden Mile, which, in spite of Brexit, is still at the heart of Euro­pean fi­nance.

Yet, these threats are noth­ing new. Ac­cord­ing to Wil­liam Broad, writ­ing in The New York Times on April 29, 2001, Sad­dam Hus­sein tested a

1-ton ra­di­o­log­i­cal dis­per­sal de­vice in the desert to the west of Bagh­dad prior to Gulf War 1.

Broad’s ar­ti­cle, un­der the head­ing, "Doc­u­ments Re­veal 1987 Bomb Test by Iraq," pro­vides lit­tle sub­stan­tive de­tail. Nev­er­the­less, sup­ple­men­tary De­fense De­part­ment sources sug­gest the Iraqi dic­ta­tor was im­pressed enough with the out­come to de­mand that his nu­clear sci­en­tists make the RDD in­te­gral to his arse­nal—and on a sig­nif­i­cant scale. For­tu­nately, U.s.-led coali­tion forces in­ter­vened in Op­er­a­tion Desert Shield in Au­gust 1990, and we are aware of the con­se­quences.

Among the most con­sis­tent de­bates along the cor­ri­dors of power in Wash­ing­ton, White­hall and the Krem­lin is whether nu­clear, chem­i­cal or bi­o­log­i­cal weapons will be the first to be used in up­graded weapons of mass de­struc­tion (WMD) on­slaughts against West­ern cities by Is­lamic zealots.

Is­lamic State is also known to have been pre­oc­cu­pied with weapons of mass de­struc­tion; al­though, be­fore that ter­ror group was crip­pled by a multi-na­tional task force that has not yet fin­ished its work, it hived off in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion and was us­ing cap­tive hu­man vic­tims to test a va­ri­ety of chem­i­cal weapons it hopes to un­leash on the un­sus­pect­ing.

No ques­tion: RDDS tend to fo­cus the mind. As things stand, say a va­ri­ety of spe­cial­ists, an en­hanced form of dirty bomb has the edge (al­though clearly, other op­tions can­not be ig­nored. Nor are they).

It is in­ter­est­ing that the United States in­ves­ti­gated "ra­di­a­tion weapons" in the 1940s and 1950s for pos­si­ble wartime use, but the con­cept was fi­nally canned. One rea­son given at the time was that its de­ploy­ment would have been re­garded by the civ­i­lized world as bar­baric ... not that con­ven­tional nu­clear weapons are any less so.

RDD IN­CI­DENTS IN EU­ROPE

What sets RDDS apart from weapons used by other dis­si­dent po­lit­i­cal groups is that al-qaeda has shown an un­usual and

his­toric in­ter­est in these weapons. Tak­ing a cue from among the staunch­est of its Is­lamic al­lies, anti-rus­sian dis­si­dents from mainly Is­lamic Chech­nya have shown their hand sev­eral times with RDDS in re­cent years.

In the late 1990s, a dirty bomb con­tain­ing highly ra­dioac­tive ce­sium 137 was placed in Mos­cow's Iz­mailovsky Park by a group of Chechen mil­i­tants un­der the com­mand of Shamil Basayev.

The de­vice was never det­o­nated—some­body in the group tipped off the me­dia; and Basayev let it be known that he only wished to dis­play the threat as a psy­cho­log­i­cal weapon by di­rect­ing a TV crew to its lo­ca­tion and pos­si­bly ini­ti­at­ing a "me­dia storm." More­over, Basayev de­clared, if his hand were forced by the Krem­lin’s in­tran­si­gence, his fol­low­ers would go ahead and use it. Hav­ing been in­volved in an at­tack that killed at least 330 peo­ple at a school a short while later (known as the Bes­lan Mas­sacre), this des­per­ate band of Chechen fa­nat­ics clearly meant what it said.

There was ap­par­ently an­other at­tempt af­ter­ward to lay an RDD de­vice in or around Mos­cow, but nei­ther de­tails nor con­fir­ma­tion was ever made pub­lic. A third dirty bomb was un­cov­ered a year later at Ar­gun, a town near Grozny, the cap­i­tal of Chech­nya. Un­ex­ploded, it was ex­am­ined by Rus­sian weapons spe­cial­ists, who found that its core ma­te­rial had been ob­tained from a lo­cal nu­clear iso­tope stor­age fa­cil­ity. The bomb was to have been boosted by two land mines that were thought to be for­mer So­viet TM-57 anti-tank mines.

A sub­se­quent re­port re­vealed that the two Chechen mil­i­tants in­volved were in­ca­pac­i­tated af­ter car­ry­ing the ex­tremely ra­dioac­tive con­tainer a short dis­tance, and one of the men sub­se­quently died. The con­sen­sus at the time was that, had the Grozny RDD been det­o­nated, it would prob­a­bly have af­fected an area about three or four city blocks in ex­tent and taken the au­thor­i­ties a year or more to de­con­tam­i­nate.

It is sig­nif­i­cant that other re­ports re­lat­ing to po­ten­tial RDD at­tacks have emerged, and in the broader con­text, we need to look at a com­ment made by Christo­pher An­drew in his book on British In­tel­li­gence, De­fense of the Realm: The Autho­rized His­tory of MI5, re­leased in Lon­don in 2009.

The of­fi­cial his­tory of MI5 has var­i­ous en­tries un­der this head­ing; and I quote:

THERE ARE FEW GOV­ERN­MENTS THAT HAVE NOT GIVEN SE­RI­OUS AT­TEN­TION TO THE POS­SI­BIL­ITY OF AN AT­TACK BY TER­ROR­ISTS WHO MIGHT WISH TO DETONATE AN RDD DE­VICE.

"The Is­lamist threat, and es­pe­cially the am­bi­tion of a British Hindu con­vert to Is­lam, Dhiren Barot[,] to ex­plode a dirty nu­clear bomb in Britain, is sober­ing by con­trast."

Barot told his rev­o­lu­tion­ary col­leagues prior to his ar­rest that "for the time we do not have the con­tacts to en­able us to pur­chase such items."

Barot was sen­tenced to 30 years in prison. What emerged dur­ing the trial was that he had been picked by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the chief al-qaeda planner be­hind the 9/11 at­tack in New York, to ex­plode an RDD bomb in Lon­don.

In the United States not long af­ter­ward, al-qaeda op­er­a­tive Jose Padilla (aka Ab­dulla al-muha­jir) was ar­rested in Chicago in May 2002 while he was on a scout­ing mis­sion for a Ji­hadi op­er­a­tion to at­tack the city with an RDD. He was sub­se­quently tried, found guilty and is cur­rently serv­ing prison time.

GOV­ERN­MENT PREPA­RA­TION FOR PO­TEN­TIAL THREATS

Amer­i­can agen­cies are tak­ing very se­ri­ously the threat of ter­ror­ists det­o­nat­ing dirty bombs within their cities. The New York State De­part­ment of Health, for in­stance, has drawn up com­pre­hen­sive guide­lines as to how the pub­lic should re­act if such an event takes place. These "ground rules" are in­struc­tive and come from sev­eral stud­ies that have emerged over the years.

It starts by ex­plain­ing what ex­actly is in­volved: A dirty bomb, or ra­di­o­log­i­cal dis­per­sion de­vice, is a bomb that com­bines con­ven­tional ex­plo­sives, such as dy­na­mite, with ra­dioac­tive ma­te­ri­als in solid, liq­uid or gaseous form. A dirty bomb is in­tended to dis­perse ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial into a small, lo­cal­ized area around an ex­plo­sion. The main pur­pose of a dirty bomb is to frighten peo­ple and con­tam­i­nate build­ings or land.

It then ex­plains the dif­fer­ence be­tween a dirty bomb and the kind of nu­clear bombs dropped on the Ja­pa­nese cities of Hiroshima and Na­gasaki at the end of World War II: There is a big dif­fer­ence. The atomic ex­plo­sions that oc­curred in Hiroshima and Na­gasaki were caused by nu­clear weapons. A dirty bomb, by con­trast, is a con­ven­tional ex­plo­sive de­vice that has been adapted to spread ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial and con­tam­i­nate “only” a small area. Be­cause the ma­te­rial will dis­perse as a re­sult of the ex­plo­sion, ar­eas near the blast will be con­tam­i­nated. The level of con­tam­i­na­tion will

de­pend on how much ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial was in the bomb, as well as the weather con­di­tions at the time of the blast.

From there, it goes on to in­struct what to do should there be such a blast in your city: If a dirty bomb goes off in your city, it will prob­a­bly not af­fect you un­less the ex­plo­sion is very close to your lo­ca­tion. Keep tele­vi­sions or ra­dios tuned to lo­cal news net­works for in­for­ma­tion. Re­mem­ber that this bomb will likely af­fect a small area.

Also dis­cussed is what to do if you are close to such a det­o­na­tion: The big­gest dan­ger is from the force of the ex­plo­sion. As with any ex­po­sure to po­ten­tial con­tam­i­na­tion, the fol­low­ing pre­cau­tions will re­duce your risk.

• Move away from the im­me­di­ate area—at least sev­eral blocks from the ex­plo­sion—and go in­doors. This will re­duce ex­po­sure to any ra­dioac­tive air­borne dust.

• If fea­si­ble, re­move your clothes and seal them in a plas­tic bag. Save them to al­low for fu­ture test­ing of the cloth­ing for ra­di­a­tion con­tam­i­na­tion.

• Take a shower (us­ing a mild soap) to wash off dust and dirt. This will re­duce to­tal ra­di­a­tion ex­po­sure if the ex­plo­sive de­vice con­tained ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial.

• More in­for­ma­tion in­volv­ing emer­gency re­sponse is given, in­clud­ing tele­phone num­bers and a va­ri­ety of web­sites that pro­vide ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion. The most prom­i­nent of these, apart from At­lanta's CDC and the Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion Ra­di­a­tion Pro­tec­tion Pro­gram (www.nrc. gov; [301] 415-8200) is the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, or FEMA (www.fema.gov; [202] 646-4600).

Al­though Euro­pean cities tend to be a lot more low key with re­gard to such threats, there is no ques­tion that ev­ery ma­jor Euro­pean conur­ba­tion has made prepa­ra­tions for just such an even­tu­al­ity. How­ever, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, de­tails are kept se­cret.

I re­call be­ing in San Fran­cisco when I got word that a ma­jor se­cu­rity ex­er­cise would be tak­ing place the next day. I ap­plied to at­tend, and even though I had been given ac­cess to var­i­ous sen­si­tive Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment in­stal­la­tions over the years, I was de­nied ac­cess. Af­ter the ter­ror bomb­ings of the World Trade Cen­ter in New York, there were many changes to the kind of se­cu­rity mea­sures (or lack thereof) pre­vi­ously im­posed. What im­me­di­ately came into ef­fect within all U.S. gov­ern­ment

agen­cies was that for­eign na­tion­als like my­self (with a British pass­port) were, in the or­di­nary course of events, re­quired to give three months’ no­tice of vis­it­ing any fa­cil­ity re­garded as “clas­si­fied.”

PUN­DITS IN BOTH LON­DON AND WASH­ING­TON TELL US THERE IS AN 80 PER­CENT CHANCE OF SUCH A DE­VICE EX­PLOD­ING IN EI­THER CITY WITHIN THE MEDIUM-TERM FU­TURE. THAT COULD MEAN ANY­THING FROM ONE TO THREE YEARS.

EF­FECTS OF DIRTY BOMBS

In med­i­cal terms, Acute Ra­di­a­tion Syn­drome (ARS) is a col­lec­tion of health ef­fects that are present within a day or so of ex­po­sure to high amounts of ion­iz­ing ra­di­a­tion. The ra­di­a­tion causes cel­lu­lar degra­da­tion due to dam­age to DNA and other key molec­u­lar struc­tures within the cells in var­i­ous tis­sues. In turn, this de­struc­tion, par­tic­u­larly be­cause it af­fects the abil­ity of cells to di­vide nor­mally, causes the symp­toms. The symp­toms can be­gin within one or two hours and could last for sev­eral months. These med­i­cal terms re­fer to acute med­i­cal prob­lems rather than ones that de­velop af­ter a pro­longed pe­riod.

The on­set and type of symp­toms de­pend on the ra­di­a­tion ex­po­sure. Rel­a­tively smaller doses re­sult in gas­troin­testi­nal ef­fects, such as nau­sea and vom­it­ing, as well as symp­toms re­lated to fall­ing blood counts, and pre­dis­po­si­tion to in­fec­tion and bleed­ing. Rel­a­tively larger doses can re­sult in neu­ro­log­i­cal ef­fects, in­clud­ing—but not lim­ited to—seizures, tremors, lethargy and rapid death.

Treat­ment of Acute Ra­di­a­tion Syn­drome is gen­er­ally sup­port­ive, with blood trans­fu­sions and an­tibi­otics, along with some more-ag­gres­sive treat­ments (such as bone mar­row trans­fu­sions) be­ing re­quired in ex­treme cases.

It is also worth men­tion­ing that Is­rael car­ried out a four-year series of tests on nu­clear ex­plo­sives to mea­sure the ef­fects, were "hos­tile forces" ever to use them against Is­rael (ac­cord­ing to Is­rael’s Haaretz daily news­pa­per on June 8, 2015). In­deed, while the av­er­age Is­raeli is not pre­pared to dis­cuss the is­sue with those who visit their coun­try, the re­al­ity that weapons of de­struc­tion, es­pe­cially dirty bombs, might be de­ployed against their cities is pal­pa­ble. Speak to those in the know, and they will give de­tails as to how this threat has pro­gressed in other coun­tries. Rus­sia apart, the United States, as we have seen, is also on the fir­ing line.

AC­CES­SI­BIL­ITY OF RA­DIOAC­TIVE MA­TE­RI­ALS

Apart from con­victed ter­ror­ist Dhiren Barot, take an­other ex­am­ple: In Jan­uary 2009, a leaked FBI re­port de­scribed the re­sults of a search of the Maine home of James G. Cum­mings, a white su­prem­a­cist who had been shot and killed by his wife. In­ves­ti­ga­tors found four 1-gal­lon con­tain­ers of 35 per­cent hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide, ura­nium, tho­rium, lithium me­tal, alu­minum pow­der, beryl­lium, boron, black iron ox­ide and mag­ne­sium. Also found was lit­er­a­ture on how to build dirty bombs and in­for­ma­tion about ce­sium 137, stron­tium 90 and cobalt 60—all ra­dioac­tive ma­te­ri­als. Of­fi­cials con­firmed the ve­rac­ity of the re­port but stated that the pub­lic was never at risk.

It goes a lot fur­ther else­where. In Cen­tral Asia, con­cern about RDDS in­ten­si­fied no­tably fol­low­ing dis­clo­sures made by Abu Zubay­dah, a se­nior al-qaeda of­fi­cial who told his cap­tors that the ter­ror move­ment was in­ter­ested in pro­duc­ing a dirty bomb.

"Also, they know ex­actly how to do it," were his words—some­thing about which in­tel­li­gence agen­cies ev­ery­where took no­tice. He said that this knowl­edge in­cluded the use of ce­sium 137. Even worse, said a linked source, al-qaeda se­ri­ously con­sid­ered arm­ing these bombs with spent fuel cells (from dis­man­tled for­mer So­viet Union nu­clear sub­marines cur­rently be­ing taken apart in Rus­sia’s far north­ern Kola Penin­sula), along with an ex­plo­sive charge at the core.

Cer­tainly, if det­o­nated in a built-up city area such as down­town Man­hat­tan, dam­age, both di­rect and col­lat­eral, would be cat­a­strophic. It would pos­si­bly take years to re­move all ra­dioac­tive traces.

A Con­gres­sional Re­search Ser­vice (CRS) Re­port for the U.S. Con­gress on ra­di­o­log­i­cal dis­per­sal de­vices at about the same time all this was go­ing down went some dis­tance to­ward fo­cus­ing pub­lic at­ten­tion on ef­forts to counter the use of this weapon. It de­clared that an RDD at­tack " … might cause ca­su­al­ties, eco­nomic dam­age and, po­ten­tially, pub­lic panic.” The im­pact of an RDD at­tack, it said, “would de­pend on many vari­ables, such as me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions, type and amount of ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial, du­ra­tion of ex­po­sure and method of dis­per­sal."

Con­se­quently, in a sense, RDDS might be re­ferred to as “weapons of mass dis­rup­tion,” rather

than of de­struc­tion.

The re­port goes on: " … both the threat posed by ter­ror­ist RDD use and the mag­ni­tude of im­pact are mat­ters of some con­tention."

Some ex­perts be­lieve that ter­ror­ists could, with­out great dif­fi­culty, ob­tain highly ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial (such as aban­doned fuel cells from a for­mer So­viet nu­clear sub­ma­rine be­ing dis­man­tled). Much of this work was done at the Rus­sian naval base on the Kola Penin­sula in the ex­treme north­west­ern cor­ner of the coun­try and not far from Nor­way. This was one of the rea­sons the Oslo/brus­sels-founded Bel­lona Foun­da­tion is fo­cused on what is hap­pen­ing in a vast re­gion ad­ja­cent to the city of Mur­mansk.

Of sig­nif­i­cant con­cern in this re­gard are the bur­geon­ing num­bers of in­ci­dents that in­volve in­ter­na­tion­ally linked nu­clear smug­glers. Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency (IAEA), they’re in­creas­ing ex­po­nen­tially by the year.

Prior to his re­tire­ment, the out­go­ing direc­tor-gen­eral of the IAEA dis­closed that the Vi­enna-based United Na­tions watch­dog or­ga­ni­za­tion was aware of hun­dreds of cases of nu­clear smug­gling each year, much of it linked to ura­nium or plu­to­nium. IAEA in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve that those in­volved from for­mer East­ern bloc coun­tries are rarely ide­o­log­i­cally mo­ti­vated. Rather, they’re in­ter­ested only in the money; and it is of lit­tle con­cern to many of them whether cities or peo­ple are con­tam­i­nated by deadly ra­di­a­tion. "The fear, es­sen­tially, is that the crim­i­nals may have no qualms about sell­ing to Ji­hadist groups," de­clared the IAEA re­port.

SOME EX­PERTS BE­LIEVE THAT TER­ROR­ISTS COULD, WITH­OUT GREAT DIF­FI­CULTY, OB­TAIN HIGHLY RA­DIOAC­TIVE MA­TE­RIAL (SUCH AS ABAN­DONED FUEL CELLS FROM A FOR­MER SO­VIET NU­CLEAR SUB­MA­RINE BE­ING DIS­MAN­TLED).

PLANT­ING AN RDD WILL NOT BE A PROB­LEM

Oth­ers as­sert that ra­di­a­tion sources in­tense enough to cause ca­su­al­ties in an RDD at­tack would be in­ju­ri­ous to the ter­ror­ists dur­ing ac­qui­si­tion and use. The ar­gu­ment about ter­ror­ists fall­ing vic­tim to their own de­struc­tive de­vices is viewed by some as su­per­flu­ous—or, as one au­thor­ity sug­gested to this au­thor, do those who com­pile these re­ports not read the daily news­pa­pers? More to the point: Is­lamic zealots have proved many times in re­cent years that no mat­ter what the risk, ra­di­a­tion sick­ness or oth­er­wise, they would be happy to die for the cause in or­der to achieve their ob­jec­tives. Sui­cide bombers are clearly a com­mon fea­ture of to­day’s fun­da­men­tal­ist Is­lamic world.

Al Qaeda’s Abu Hamza al-muha­jir ac­tu­ally called for Mus­lim sci­en­tists to join the or­ga­ni­za­tion and ex­per­i­ment with ra­dioac­tive de­vices for use against coali­tion troops.

EF­FECTS OF A DIRTY BOMB

This brings us to what a ra­di­o­log­i­cal dis­per­sal de­vice or dirty bomb is all about. In the sim­plest terms, these de­vices are in­tended to dis­perse ra­di­a­tion. In a large RDD blast within the con­fines of a city, there would ob­vi­ously be a num­ber of ca­su­al­ties, in­clud­ing peo­ple ex­posed to the ac­tual blast. They would suc­cumb to the ef­fects of the chem­i­cal ex­plo­sion, as with a con­ven­tional bomb, and the shrap­nel that it dis­perses.

As one for­mer nu­clear physi­cist (who wishes to re­main anony­mous) told me, it is ex­tremely un­likely that there will be such a vast amount of ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity of an RDD blast that peo­ple would die right there from ra­di­a­tion. Acute ra­di­a­tion ef­fects, in­clud­ing death, will only ap­pear in the days, weeks or months that fol­low the ex­po­sure, he ex­plained.

The main pur­pose of a dirty bomb is to con­tam­i­nate the sur­round­ings and to dis­rupt nor­mal com­mer­cial and other ac­tiv­i­ties for an ex­tended pe­riod. Most salient, the prin­ci­ple ob­jec­tive of det­o­nat­ing an RDD is to cre­ate panic on a mas­sive scale, which would un­ques­tion­ably hap­pen should the at­tack take place in the heart of any ma­jor city.

THE PRIN­CI­PLE OB­JEC­TIVE OF DET­O­NAT­ING AN RDD IS TO CRE­ATE PANIC ON A MAS­SIVE SCALE, WHICH WOULD UN­QUES­TION­ABLY HAP­PEN SHOULD THE AT­TACK TAKE PLACE IN THE HEART OF ANY MA­JOR CITY.

HOW ARE WE COUN­TER­ING THE THREAT?

That raises the ques­tion: What is the gov­ern­ment do­ing about the threat? The an­swer ba­si­cally is: A lot! There are few gov­ern­ments that have not given se­ri­ous at­ten­tion to the pos­si­bil­ity of an at­tack by ter­ror­ists who might wish to detonate an RDD de­vice.

In the West, there have been mul­ti­ple strides to­ward cre­at­ing emer­gency bodies that would deal with such emer­gen­cies. They are clas­si­fied and rarely make the news—for sev­eral rea­sons. In the first place, the au­thor­i­ties do not want the en­emy to be aware of specifics of coun­ter­mea­sures; and se­condly, when such things are made pub­lic, they tend to alarm the pop­u­lace.

With dirty bombs, it is im­por­tant to ac­cept that there is a series of mea­sures in place that would go into ef­fect as soon as un­war­ranted ra­dioac­tiv­ity is de­tected. These in­clude:

The Na­tional At­mo­spheric Re­lease Ad­vi­sory Cen­ter (NARAC) at Cal­i­for­nia’s Lawrence Liver­more Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory is able to al­most im­me­di­ately map the prob­a­ble spread of haz­ardous ma­te­rial ac­ci­den­tally or in­ten­tion­ally re­leased into the at­mos­phere. Ac­cord­ing to its web­site, its pri­mary func­tion is to sup­port De­part­ment of En­ergy (DOE) and De­part­ment of De­fense (DOD) sites, as well as DOE con­se­quence man­age­ment (CM) teams for ra­di­o­log­i­cal re­leases through the Doe's At­mo­spheric Re­lease Ad­vi­sory Ca­pa­bil­ity (ARAC) pro­gram. This se­cu­rity body is able to pro­vide a series of multi-scale at­mo­spheric flow and dis­per­sion mod­els for a wide range of haz­ards, and it can do this on a lo­cal, re­gional and a con­ti­nen­tal scale (which would cover the en­tire United States) or in­ter­na­tion­ally.

The Na­tional Guard WMD Civil Sup­port Team has been qui­etly and ef­fi­ciently es­tab­lished for rapid de­ploy­ment to as­sist a lo­cal in­ci­dent com­man­der in de­ter­min­ing the na­ture and ex­tent of an at­tack or in­ci­dent. This or­ga­ni­za­tion is geared to pro­vide ex­pert tech­ni­cal ad­vice on WMD re­sponse op­er­a­tions, as well as to help iden­tify and sup­port the ar­rival of fol­low-on state and fed­eral mil­i­tary re­sponse as­sets. Es­sen­tially, these are joint units and can con­sist of both Army and Air Na­tional Guard per­son­nel, with some of these units com­manded by Air Na­tional Guard lieu­tenant colonels.

The Weapons of Mass De­struc­tion Civil Sup­port Teams (WMD-CST) sup­ports lo­cal and state au­thor­i­ties at do­mes­tic WMD/NBC (nu­clear, bi­o­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal war­fare) in­ci­dent sites by iden­ti­fy­ing agents and sub­stances, as­sess­ing cur­rent and pro­jected con­se­quences, ad­vis­ing on re­sponse mea­sures and as­sist­ing with re­quests for ad­di­tional mil­i­tary sup­port.

Above: This is an in­for­ma­tion sheet from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol that ex­plains ra­di­o­log­i­cal dis­per­sal de­vices, or “dirty bombs.” (Cour­tesy of https://emer­gency. cdc.gov/ra­di­a­tion/pdf/ In­fo­graph­ic_ Ra­di­o­log­i­cal_ Dis­per­sal_de­vice.pdf)

Right: U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pa­trol agents train in the de­tec­tion and han­dling of haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing ra­dioac­tive dis­per­sion de­vices (RDDS).

Be­low: There are vir­tu­ally no re­stric­tions to the size or shape of dirty bombs. While it's un­likely bad ac­tors would try to smug­gle an RDD across a U.S. bor­der, agents from Cus­toms and Bor­der Pa­trol in­clude that pos­si­bil­ity in their train­ing.

Far left: The au­thor dis­cusses dirty bombs in great de­tail in his book, Nu­clear Ter­ror: The Bomb and Other Weapons of Mass De­struc­tion in the Wrong Hands.

Near left: This book pro­vides com­pre­hen­sive ex­pla­na­tions of threats posed by a dirty bomb at­tack and in­cludes in­for­ma­tion for pre­par­ing a re­sponse should you be ex­posed to such an event.

Right: An RDD could be built to fit into a harm­less-look­ing piece of lug­gage.

Bot­tom: Bags that con­tain ra­dioac­tive waste from the nu­clear power plant ac­ci­dent in Fukushima, Ja­pan, await move­ment to a more se­cure lo­ca­tion.

Be­low: The com­po­nents for a dirty bomb are rel­a­tively sim­ple to as­sem­ble once the ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial has been ac­quired.

Far left: Two trainees check the con­di­tion of a "vic­tim" of an RDD at­tack.

Near left, top: Ra­di­a­tion de­tec­tion de­vices will en­able first re­spon­ders and in­ves­ti­ga­tors to de­ter­mine the scope and sever­ity of the at­tack.

Near left, bot­tom: First re­spon­ders, who typ­i­cally run to­ward the dan­ger zone, will be among those at great­est risk to in­jury and ill­ness from RDD at­tacks.

Near left: Mex­i­can au­thor­i­ties in­ves­ti­gate a ve­hi­cle that was in­volved in the theft of ra­dioac­tive ma­te­ri­als from a lab­o­ra­tory in Tul­te­pec, Mex­ico.

Far left: This cas­ing of a spent can­cer-treat­ing ra­di­a­tion de­vice was found in a vil­lage in Mex­ico af­ter it was stolen and its ra­dioac­tive cobalt 60 was re­moved.

Above: Spent nu­clear fuel rods are rou­tinely trans­ported to stor­age fa­cil­i­ties via rail­road and other meth­ods. Many are con­cerned that these meth­ods are not se­cure enough from de­ter­mined ter­ror­ists who would use these ma­te­ri­als to con­struct dirty bombs.

Aban­doned So­viet-era nu­clear sub­marines might be a source for ra­dioac­tive ma­te­ri­als for RDDS.

This So­viet sub­ma­rine is be­ing scav­enged for any num­ber of ma­te­ri­als. Its nu­clear fuel could be among the items be­ing re­moved from it.

This warn­ing sign is posted out­side Pripyat, Ukraine, where the Ch­er­nobyl nu­clear power plant dis­as­ter oc­curred in 1986.While this event was sig­nif­i­cantly more pow­er­ful than a likely dirty bomb, a po­tent RDD will con­tam­i­nate an area for years.

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