IAEA Chief Warns of Threat of Nuclear Terrorism

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IAEA Chief Warns of Threat of Nuclear Terrorism

‘Terrorists and criminals will try to exploit any vulnerability in the global security system.’

At a conference on enhancing global nuclear security efforts, the director general of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (iaea), Yukiya Amano, warned of the possibility of terrorist attacks involving radioactive material. The conference, held at the organization’s headquarters in Vienna last Monday, was attended by over 1,300 delegates from 120 countries and 20 international and regional organizations.

Amano’s chief concern was the potential use of a crude nuclear device—a “dirty bomb,” as it’s often called. Such a bomb may not necessarily be a weapon of “mass destruction” but rather of “mass disruption.” Experts believe dirty bombs are much more likely to be detonated than actual nuclear bombs because of the relative ease in obtaining radioactive materials.

How serious is the threat of crude radioactive bombs? To answer that question, Amano referred to a foiled smuggling and trafficking incident in Moldova two years ago. The smugglers had tried to avoid detection by using special radiation shields, showing “a worrying level of knowledge.” The case ended well, but “unfortunately,” said Amano, “we cannot be sure if such cases are just the tip of the iceberg.”

Every year, the iaea receives hundreds of reports of thefts and unauthorized activities involving radioactive materials. While there hasn’t yet been a terrorist attack involving nuclear bombs or dirty bombs, Amano cautioned: “[T]his must not lull us into a false sense of security. If a ‘dirty bomb’ is detonated in a major city, or sabotage occurs at a nuclear facility, the consequences could be devastating. The threat of nuclear terrorism is real, and the global nuclear security system needs to be strengthened in order to counter that threat.”

George Moore, a senior iaea analyst from 2007 to 2012, noted that “many experts believe it’s only a matter of time before a dirty bomb or another type of radioactive dispersal device is used, with some expressing surprise that it hasn’t happened already.”

The destruction and disruption that could be caused by dirty bombs can be seen in the fairly simple pressure cooker bombs that paralyzed Boston in April. As our article “Death by a Thousand Cuts” noted, the Boston bombing cost three lives as well as hundreds of millions of dollars. Makeshift radioactive bombs could be similarly costly. Cleaning up nuclear contamination could take months, and for some buildings, decontamination could be a greater challenge than to destroy and rebuild.

As unpleasant as this reality is, the fact of the matter is that the world remains vulnerable to nuclear terrorism, and the United States, Britain and Israel face the greatest risk. These nations have enemies determined to destroy them, or at least cripple them structurally or economically. Some of these foes are undeterred by religion, morals or death. For some, what they perceive happening after death actually motivates them.

This is another situation that proves only God can protect and save us, individually. He is eager to help us, and even promises to do so if we’re repentant. Otherwise, He will allow terror to come upon us to teach us the futility of rebellion. For more, read “Death by a Thousand Cuts” and “Aversion Therapy.”