August 17, 2016 - Patrick Malone

August 17, 2016
Patrick Malone

To the potential threats that keep you up at night, you might want to add RDBs. Radiological dirty bombs are explosive devices that ignite or scatter radioactive materials.

Compared the nuclear bombs, RDBs are small potatoes, but a radiological dirty bomb scenario plotted out for the Department of Homeland Security in 2007 included dozens of deaths and a one-year radioactive contamination problem that could paralyze the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA and cost the local economy up to $250 Billion.

And building such a radiological dirty bomb is no super-high-tech nuclear weapon project. It’s more like a Popular Mechanics DIY at home project.

Coincidentally, 2007 also saw a demonstration by investigators from the General Accounting Office of just how unprepared the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was to deal with the threat. The GAO team showed horrified officials from the NRC and the Department Of Energy, how easy it was to assemble enough radiological materials to power a very damaging RDB.

A GAO report recommended keeping closer track of various potentially dangerous materials. The NRC and DOE promised to fix the problem.

They didn’t, and guess what,– another GAO investigative team re-tested DOE security and discovered that the same tricks that worked in 2007, still worked in 2016…and that the “back door” to purchasing radiological materials they found nine years ago, was still open and that this made it easy for would-be extortionists or terrorists to acquire more than enough of the essential radiological elements to make a dirty bomb.

Reading Room

Patrick Malone joined the Center for Public Integrity in May 2015 to cover national security. He spent 20 years reporting on justice, politics and deep investigations for newspapers in Colorado and New Mexico, most recently at The Santa Fe New Mexican.

“A secret group easily bought the raw ingredients for a dirty bomb – here in America” – Center for Public Integrity

“Nuclear weapons contractors repeatedly stifle whistleblowers, auditors say” – Center for Public Integrity

“Scientists say nuclear fuel pools around the country pose safety and health risks” – Center for Public Integrity

“Report: Brussels suicide bombers sought radioactive materials” – Center for Public Integrity

“A terrorist group’s plot to create a radioactive ‘dirty bomb'” – Center for Public Integrity



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