The following HTML text is provided to enhance online
readability. Many aspects of typography translate only awkwardly to HTML.
Please use the page image
as the authoritative form to ensure accuracy.
Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism
mation sharing is currently problematical, however, because much of the information to be shared is classified.
Of course, the development of remedies for reducing potential NPP vulnerabilities to terrorist attack must consider both costs and achieved risk reductions, especially in view of the potential vulnerabilities of other types of industrial facilities, as discussed elsewhere in this chapter. The nation’s resources to address these vulnerabilities are limited and thus have to be expended in a way that achieves the greatest risk reduction at the lowest overall cost to society.
Given the wide use of radiation sources in the United States and other countries, a determined terrorist would probably have little trouble obtaining material for use in an RDD. Fortunately, many radiation sources are strong gamma emitters and, unless heavily shielded, can be readily detected with existing sensor technologies. If an RDD attack were to occur, the casualty rate would likely be low, and contamination could be detected and removed from the environment, although such cleanup would probably be expensive and time consuming.
It is clear that the aim of an RDD attack would be to spread fear and panic and to cause as much disruption to society as possible. Given the public fear of anything “nuclear” or “radioactive,” even a minor terrorist attack could have greatly magnified psychological and economic consequences. The ease of recovery from an RDD attack would depend to a great extent on how the attack was handled by first responders, political leaders, and the news media, all of which would help to shape public opinion and reactions.
Several steps can be taken over the near term to reduce the nation’s vulnerability to acts of nuclear and radiological terror. Science and technology have an important role to play in this effort but clearly are insufficient in themselves to meet the future challenges. Policy and procedural changes may also be required, as described in the following discussion.
Stolen Nuclear Weapons and Improvised Nuclear Devices
There are no obvious technological silver bullets to reduce the nation’s vulnerability to terrorist use of stolen nuclear weapons or INDs. Nevertheless, science and technology can play a central role in an enduring, multilayered homeland-defense system that provides for the following capabilities:
Indications and warnings of terrorist group membership, structure, intentions, and transformational activities;
Accounting of and security for weapons and SNM inventories at their sources;