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A holistic approach to radiological terrorism

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Abstract

The potential use by a terrorist group of a Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD) or dirty bomb is a contemplated contingency in the twenty-first century. Since the 1990s, smuggling of radioactive materials has occurred in several countries involving sufficient amounts to make a dirty bomb. The health effects of an RDD explosion may vary significantly according to particle energy, and whether alpha, beta and gamma particles are inhaled, ingested or skin-absorbed. The activity of the radioactive source is another variable as well as the shape of the terrain, population density, local wind conditions, etc. The explosion of an RDD could contaminate water supply, food and other consumer articles. The physiological and psychological damage caused by the explosion of an RDD would most likely be greater than the effects produced by the radioactive contamination. Taking into account that the perception of fear is produced through a complex process of cognitive, behavioral, emotional and psychological factors, an RDD explosion could result in dozens of individuals traumatized for each physically injured person. Experimental tests and mathematical code systems to calculate radioactive doses produced in the explosion of an RDD are being developed, together with new technologies and techniques in the preparedness for radiological response and recovery. Although a worst case scenario could be postulated, proactive and integrating response strategies would significantly reduce the damage caused by a dirty bomb explosion.

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Carpintero-Santamaria, N. (2015). A holistic approach to radiological terrorism. NATO Science for Peace and Security Series B: Physics and Biophysics, 74, 123–133. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9894-5_12

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