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U.N.: Nuclear Security Too Poor to Stop Dirty Bombs

The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said on Tuesday stricter security measures were urgently needed to keep radioactive material out of the hands of terrorists, who could use it to wreak havoc with “dirty bombs.” Opening an international conference on dirty bombs, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Mohamed ElBaradei said the September 11, 2001 attacks had shown terrorists were not afraid to handle deadly radioactive material to construct such a bomb. “Given the apparent readiness of terrorists to disregard their own safety, the personal danger from handling powerful radioactive sources can no longer be seen as an effective deterrent,” he said. U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham (news – web sites) told the conference that terrorists were prepared to “employ technology never intended for use as weapons, to murder thousands of innocent and unsuspecting people in the most shocking and ruthless way.” Dirty bombs — the popular term for radiological dispersion devices — are made by attaching radioactive material to a conventional explosive to spread it over a wide area. Britain said in January it had evidence that Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network tried to develop a dirty bomb in the late 1990s. But some counter-terrorism experts and even officials within the IAEA argue that such bombs are generally of little interest to groups like al Qaeda as they are less effective than more easily accessible weapons. But ElBaradei said that while a dirty bomb might not necessarily kill its victims, the most severe impact would be “panic and social disruption associated with exposure to radiation, the very purpose of an act of terror.” Full Story

OODA Analyst

OODA Analyst

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