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Hidden Danger: Risks of Nuclear Terrorism

NCJ Number
Terrorism Volume: 10 Issue: 1 Dated: (1987) Pages: 1-21
P L Leventhal; M M Hoenig
Date Published
22 pages
This article discusses the vulnerability of nuclear power plants and research reactors to sabotage and terrorist attack and proposes corrective measures, based on reports by the International Task Force on Prevention of Nuclear Terrorism and related research conducted by the Nuclear Control Institute.
The task force believes that the probability of nuclear terrorism remains low, but is increasing as terrorist groups become more determined, more violent, and more technologically advanced. With expanding civil commerce in weapon-usable forms of plutonium and uranium, and with the vast number of tactical nuclear weapons stores in areas of intense terrorist activity, it is conceivable that terrorists could build or steal a weapon. The potential for nuclear terrorism is particularly high for Western Europe because of its high level of nuclearization and high level of terrorism by sophisticated groups that operate across national boundaries. Three types of systems needed to protect nuclear power plants are discussed: physical barriers and exclusion zones, bunkered systems for removing heat from the reactor core when a plant is bombed or a meltdown starts and tamper-proof controls that would override deliberate attempts from the control panel to precipitate a severe reactor accident. Topics covered include consequences of a severe reactor accident, evacuation and emergency training, and vehicular attack. Measures to protect and minimize the use of weapon-usable materials are outlined. Tables and 31 footnotes. (Author abstract modified)