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The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism Dr. Charles D. Ferguson Science and Technology Fellow Council on Foreign Relations September 29, 2004 Georgetown University.

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Presentation on theme: "The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism Dr. Charles D. Ferguson Science and Technology Fellow Council on Foreign Relations September 29, 2004 Georgetown University."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism Dr. Charles D. Ferguson Science and Technology Fellow Council on Foreign Relations September 29, 2004 Georgetown University Financial support: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Ploughshares Fund, and Nuclear Threat Initiative

2 Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism Acquisition of an intact nuclear weapon Crude nuclear weapon or Improvised Nuclear Device (IND) Attack against or sabotage of a nuclear power plant or other nuclear facility Radiological dispersal device (RDD) or “dirty bomb”

3 Holmes to Watson: It’s Elementary  Motive  Means  Opportunity

4 Assessing Risk Risk = Probability X Consequence  Large uncertainties  Lack of data Alternatively: Risk = Motivation X Intention X Capability X Consequence

5 Terrorist Motivations Why haven’t there been any RDD or crude nuclear weapon terrorist attacks? Those who study terrorist motivations are “underwhelmed by the probability of such an event for most – but not all – terrorist groups.” – Jerrold Post (IAEA presentation, Nov. 2001) Psychological and political constraints are great for most groups

6 Terrorist Motivations (continued) Traditional thinking: “Terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead.” -- Brian Jenkins, RAND New Breed of Terrorist Group:  Al Qaeda – politico-religious  Aum Shinrikyo – Apocalyptic  Want to kill many and have even more watching in dread

7 But Can They Get the Means? Nuclear weapons and fissile material are difficult to obtain Radioactive materials are much more accessible Variety of nuclear facilities to target: Security also varies

8 Acquisition of Intact Nuclear Weapon Theft Purchase Gift (a little help from their friends)? Coup

9 Estimated Nuclear Arsenals Nation Total Active Weapons Relatively Portable Weapons United States7,6503,000 Russia8,2008,000-10,000 France34860? Britain200Unknown China380Unknown Israel75-200Unknown India30-35Unknown Pakistan24-48Unknown North Korea0-8?Unknown

10 Greatest Risks of Terrorist Acquisition Russia –  Large numbers of portable, forward deployed tactical nuclear weapons Pakistan –  Presence of al Qaeda  Unstable political system  Parts of government (ISI) sympathetic to terrorist causes  Nascent nuclear command & control system

11 Highest Priority Efforts: Intact Nuclear Weapons U.S. should: press Russia to fully implement Presidential Nuclear Initiative pledges. revamp policy prohibiting security assistance to operational Russian nuclear weapons. declare its intention to remove its tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. provide security assistance to Pakistan contingent on constraints of NPT

12 Can Terrorists Build Their Own Nuclear Bomb? Gun-type: –Simplest design  Cannot use plutonium; must use HEU

13 Can Terrorists Build Their Own Nuclear Bomb? (continued) Implosion-type: –More sophisticated, but still first generation weapon  Can use either plutonium or HEU

14 Major Hurdle: Acquisition of Fissile Material Material TypeGlobal Inventory (metric tons) Military plutonium (Pu)250 Civil Pu (separated)205 Military HEU1,670 Civil HEU20

15 Highest Priority: Put HEU at the Head of the Queue Accelerate down-blending of Russian HEU Speed up repatriation of Soviet/Russian- and U.S.-origin HEU and accelerate conversion of research reactors Use Mayak Fissile Material Storage Facility to secure HEU Subordinate Plutonium Disposition Program to HEU First Strategy

16 Attacks on Nuclear Facilities Commercial nuclear power plants Research reactors Spent fuel storage pools Reprocessing facilities

17 Nuclear Facilities: Highest Priority Efforts Design basis threat should reflect 9/11 magnitude of attack Rapidly identify and implement urgent upgrades to vulnerable plant systems Need performance-based (not-compliance based) security system Need formal government assessment of potential vulnerabilities at research reactors

18 Dirty Bombs – Myth versus Reality RDDs (Dirty Bombs) are NOT Weapons of Mass Destruction –Few, if any, people would die immediately or shortly after exposure to ionizing radiation from typical RDD RDDs can be Weapons of Mass Disruption Major effects: Panic (psychological and social effects) Economic costs (decontamination and rebuilding)

19 High-Risk Radioactive Sources Finding: Only a small fraction of commercial radioactive sources pose inherently high security risks But still large number High-risk sources are: Portable Dispersible More radioactive

20 Dirty Bombs: Highest Priority Tasks Improve security of high-risk radioactive sources Preparation and Response: Develop and stockpile effective decontamination technologies Involve public in development of decon standards Provide better training of emergency first responders Educate public about real versus perceived risks of radiation: psychological immunization


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