Magazine article National Defense

Dealing with 'Dirty Bomb' Threats

Magazine article National Defense

Dealing with 'Dirty Bomb' Threats

Article excerpt

Speeding up the elimination of highly-enriched uranium and plutonium is one way to mitigate the "dirty-bomb" threat, experts said.

Security analysts and policymakers have speculated in recent months on whether terrorists could get their hands on dirty bombs. These devices contain nuclear materials, packed with conventional high explosives. When detonated, it wouldn't cause a nuclear explosion, but it would contaminate a large area with toxic radiation. "It would cause widespread panic, and it would be difficult to clean it up," said Rose Gottemoeller, the Clinton administration's deputy secretary for defense nuclear non-proliferation at the Department of Energy.

The dirty bomb was in the headlines this month, after the Justice Department disclosed an alleged terrorist plot involving nuclear radiation. An al Qaeda associate, a U.S. citizen named Abdullah al Muhajir was arrested after authorities learned he might have been scouting potential dirty-bomb targets in the United States.

Gottemoeller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said administration officials would benefit from reading Harvard's Kennedy School of Government new study, entitled, "Securing Nuclear Weapons and Materials: Seven Steps for Immediate Action. …

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