number of radiation victims might not be great. However, the likelihood of psychological impacts of a radiological attack leading to widespread fear and social disruption would be high, and the economic costs of closing off and cleaning up contaminated areas would be very significant.
The committee concurs with the view of many experts who consider the possibility of a dirty bomb scenario in the not too distant future to be high (see Box 1-3). These apprehensions are supported by seizures in Europe of illegally obtained nuclear materials that have been linked to organized crime as well as by the discovery of crude drawings of dirty bombs in the possession of al Qaeda operatives. Thus, in addition to improving the security of IRSs on a broad basis, the United States and other countries should be prepared to respond to dirty bomb attacks through well-developed and tested consequence management plans. The number of inadequately protected IRSs is simply too large to secure all of them, at least in the near term.
From the U.S. perspective, the primary concern must of course be the prevention of detonation of one or more RDDs within the United States. In the first instance, preventive measures should focus on ensuring the security of currently inadequately controlled IRSs in the United States. The U.S. Department of Energy has mounted an aggressive program to find, collect, and secure these unwanted IRSs. At the same time, terrorist groups might try to smuggle IRSs or their radioactive components into the United States even though a variety of homeland security programs are in place to restrict penetration of U.S. borders.
A priority concern of the U.S. government also must be the possible targeting of dirty bombs at U.S. assets abroad—embassies, military bases, privately owned establishments, and other facilities. Disruption of activities and denial of access to contaminated areas at some of these facilities, particularly those that serve as transportation or communication hubs, could have profound security implications.
Detonation of a dirty bomb overseas, even distant from U.S. assets, would have significant political and economic repercussions throughout the world. Such an event might perturb international financial markets and raise questions about the effectiveness of international security alliances. Also, it could compel the United States and other countries to divert additional resources to enhancing protection of overseas investments and of their own homelands in recognition of new capabilities of terrorist organizations.
In the context of the foregoing global perspective on the likelihood and impact of dirty bomb scenarios, this report has focused on the security of IRSs in Russia. As indicated in Chapter 2, the inventory of IRSs in Russia is measured in the hundreds of thousands, including tens of thousands of particularly dangerous IRSs that should be under stringent