The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism
Norwitz, Jeffrey H., Naval War College Review
Ferguson, Charles D., William C. Potter, et al. The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism. Monterey, Calif.: Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 2004. 378pp. $19.95
Only readers well prepared for a sobering analysis of the likelihood of the use of nuclear materials by terrorists and its consequences should read this book. The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism stands alone as a realistic and scientific treatment of a dire threat. It is well researched, credible, and easily understood despite delving into nuclear physics. The authors, all with impeccable credentials, have effectively framed their discussions around four situations that chillingly illustrate how nuclear materials may find their way into a devastating weapon of mass destruction.
Each of the "four faces" is a distinct scenario of nuclear terrorism and a frightening apparition of what our nation confronts. The first example is theft and detonation of an intact nuclear weapon, without question the most worrisome, followed secondly by theft or purchase of fissile material leading to the fabrication and detonation of a crude nuclear weapon or, as the authors say, an "improvised nuclear device." The third example is an attack on, or sabotage of, nuclear installations, causing the release of large amounts of radioactivity. The final manifestation is terrorist dispersal of highly radioactive material by conventional explosives, commonly referred to as a "dirty bomb" or, in the authors' words, a "radiological dispersion device." For each of these calamitous circumstances, the authors provide a cacophony of story lines, any one of which would make a riveting movie.
The writers cleverly create an analytic framework to examine the four "faces" of nuclear terrorism. This probing methodology includes looking at a causative chain of events leading to the acquisition and detonation of a mass-casualty weapon incorporating nuclear material; terrorist motivations and capabilities to achieve nuclear potential; transfer of radiological materials by force, intimidation, collusion, insider assistance, or as a gift by rogue states; defeating safeguards on the physical protection of fissile material or safeguards against unauthorized detonation of a nuclear device; undetected transportation of a device to the target; and lastly, consequence management of an undeterred terrorist nuclear attack.
Although the authors distinguish between the four scenarios, their analysis of underlying factors is often unnecessarily repetitive. Indeed, conclusions are lifted verbatim from previous chapters-understandably, since patterns of illegal activity often mirror each other, regardless of criminal goal. This frequent redundancy undermines the argument that there are four distinct paradigms relating to nuclear terrorism. …