Homeland and national security experts have for years wondered why there has been no dirty bomb attack in the United States or abroad. It seems so easy to be able to make one. More appropriately called a radiological dispersal device (RDD), the dirty bomb is intended to explosively spread radioactive contamination over an area. A number of reports over the last decade have indicated interest on the part of terrorists in acquiring radioactive materials and executing a dirty bomb attack against the United States. Plots to use radioactive materials for terrorism have been disrupted, and there is a small, but nevertheless worrisome black market in radioactive and nuclear materials. But the threat of radiological terrorism right now is deemed by the Intelligence Community to be low.
An RDD is not a difficult weapon to construct if one simply wants headlines, although constructing a device that would be effective at contaminating a wide area is more challenging. A wellconstructed device could be capable of contaminating a dozen or more city blocks, rendering them unfit for habitation without aggressive decontamination – an expensive prospect that would likely take many years. There’s certainly no shortage of potential material – radioactive materials from which an RDD could be made are used widely in various industries all over the world. And while efforts to better secure them are ongoing, it is still feasible to acquire radioactive material if one knows where to go. The so-called Islamic State (IS) is certainly in possession of radioactive material among the spoils of occupied lands in Syria and Iraq.
Read the complete report in the Feb/March 2016 issue of Homeland Security Today.