”Dirty Bombs”: Background in Brief


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If that would be too expensive, the affected area would have to be abandoned or even demolished. Many people would likely stay away from the affected area even if the amount of radioactivity was quite low. Security analysts believe that the comparative ease with which the components of a dirty bomb can be obtained make it an attractive option for terrorists or for countries that do not have the resources to build a nuclear weapon.

However, the dirty bomb does have significant drawbacks as a weapon. Assembling the bomb requires extensive exposure to radioactive material. To spread over the widest area, the radioactive material would have to be in powder form, but dispersing it over a wide area would mean that the amount of radioactivity at any specific point could be too low to cause any harm. There have been no recorded instances of a successful dirty bomb attack. Scattering radioactive material as a weapon was first suggested in by a committee of the U. From to the U. Army tested explosives designed to disperse radioactive tantalum.

In Iraq tested a bomb filled with radioactive material, but the Iraqi military was dissatisfied with the small amounts of radioactivity produced. In Chechen secessionists called a Russian television station and claimed that they could build a dirty bomb. As proof, they provided the location of a spot in a Moscow park where they had buried a small amount of radioactive cesium.

In the Russian-backed Chechen intelligence service defused a dirty bomb that had been placed near a railway line in Chechyna; it was believed that Chechen secessionists were responsible for planting it.

”Dirty Bombs”: Background in Brief - UNT Digital Library

Jose Padilla, an American who had extensive contact with al-Qaeda , was arrested in in Chicago on suspicion that he was planning a dirty bomb attack. Q: These days there is a lot of fear of something called a 'dirty-bomb'. What is a dirty bomb? A: Dirty means it is dirty, that is it will not really harm you but it makes you uncomfortable.

See it is like getting dirt on your dress that does not mean you are going to die or that your health is in trouble but definitely, you have to go and change your dress. Same way, a dirty bomb, which normally like any other explosive has some effect, but since it is integrated with radioactive material and after an explosion that radioactivity could spread out.

Therefore, there is a chance of contamination on your body, even contamination on your dress, so definitely it calls for a decontamination of the people who are nearby. It also calls for a decontamination of the area. Therefore, it is not in terms of a casualty or a serious injury we are worried about a dirty bomb, or what is called a radiological dispersal device.

The concern is about the fear it may inject into the people because very large number of people will believe that they are all affected because they are all contaminated. It causes disruption. Q: But what are the materials, which can be used to make a dirty bomb?

A: First of all a dirty bomb has never been used anywhere in the world.

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Nevertheless, it is mentioned that there were attempts made where people have tried to make one using radioactive Cesium and explosives like RDX. It has never been used in India. What is feared is that since the use of radioactive sources and radioisotopes is increasing in a very significant way world over. Moreover, in some places the security of sources is not fully ensured.

Hence, there are cases of lost sources, misplaced sources etc. These orphan sources can get into the hands of the bad-boys. It is believed that they can integrate these with explosives, and they can use it.

Radioactive Material

However, it has never been used. Q But is it not dangerous to handle radioactive sources? A It is indeed so it is also a big challenge for those bad people who could try to assemble such devices, that is one of the reasons why assembling them has not been successful. Compared to the conventional explosives, whoever tries to integrate radioactive sources like Cesium or Cobalt, they are all high-energy gamma emitters.


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Therefore, during the assembly itself, even if one spends more than few minutes, the bad boys will get very high radiation exposure and will fall sick. Q: So you are saying that if a terrorist has to use it, then the likelihood of the terrorist himself being exposed to such serious doses of radiation is high. Is that what you are saying? A: Yes, unless, until they manage it with many remote controlled mechanisms, and if it is not shielded, they themselves would be subjected to high radiation field.

Not only will they get affected, the pain will be extremely severe, so keeping it a secret will be very difficult from the neighbors. Unlike conventional explosives transporting dirty bombs is very difficult. Escaping detection is almost impossible since transport of radioactive material is very difficult. Either it requires extremely large quantity of shielding like say by using hundreds of kilograms of lead. In that case, the person will be moving about in a suspicious way, since it is hard to carry so much weight, or it will be a group of people.

If enough shielding is not there, even the vehicle he is using, co-passengers, driver, they will all start getting a radiation exposure syndrome or acute radiation syndrome.


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  • Therefore, world over it is considered very difficult to assemble it, as the terrorists are likely to be harmed more. However, much more challenges are on people like security agencies who would have to respond and take care of the public. Q: In India, do we have the capability to detect hidden dirty bombs? A: BARC has developed many systems. About Browse this Partner. What Descriptive information to help identify this report.

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