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Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism
tive, and the government continues to fund R&D15 to improve scientific understanding of radiation effects on biological materials.
Education and training can serve as an effective counter to future RDD attacks. To this end, the committee recommends that the following actions be implemented:
Recommendation 2.12: Training should be provided to emergency responders (police, fire, and other emergency service personnel) on how to assess on-the-ground hazards from radiological attacks. As part of this training, responders should be provided with simple but effective radiation-monitoring devices, trained in their use, and told whom to contact for expert assistance, if needed. The Office of Homeland Security should take the lead for this effort in cooperation with the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Recommendation 2.13: Prepackaged kits of written materials on basic radiation science and effects should be developed for the media and national, state, and local leaders to help them respond appropriately to radiological attacks. The Office of Homeland Security should take the lead for this effort and should work with independent credible organizations to develop these kits.
Recommendation 2.14: A technically credible spokesperson at the national level who is perceived as being outside the political arena—for example, the President’s Science Advisor, the Surgeon General, or their designated spokespersons—should be prepared to provide accurate and usable information to the media and public concerning public health and safety risks and appropriate response actions in the aftermath of a nuclear or radiological attack.
Such a response needs to be prepared and rehearsed in advance to avoid the kind of national leadership confusion that followed the anthrax attacks on Washington, D.C., in 2001.
The Department of Energy sponsors research on low-dose radiation effects within the Office of Science and also supports the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, which is conducting a long-term longitudinal study of Japanese atomic bomb survivors. Additionally, the federal government provides funding to the National Research Council’s Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) Committees for periodic reassessments of low-dose health effects. The BEIR-VII study is currently in progress, and its objective is to determine the mathematical relationship between health risks and radiation dose for low levels of ionizing radiation.