Fact Sheet: Dirty Bombs   [open pdf - 105KB]

"In order to better inform the public on what a dirty bomb is and what terrorists might intend to try to accomplish in setting off such a weapon, the following information is provided. Given the scores of exercises"federal, state and local"being staged to assure that all emergency response organizations are properly equipped, trained and exercised to respond to terrorist chemical, biological or radiological attack, we believe members of the public, as well as news organizations, will value some concise, straightforward information. Basically, the principal type of dirty bomb, or Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD), combines a conventional explosive, such as dynamite, with radioactive material. In most instances, the conventional explosive itself would have more immediate lethality than the radioactive material. At the levels created by most probable sources, not enough radiation would be present in a dirty bomb to kill people or cause severe illness. For example, most radioactive material employed in hospitals for diagnosis or treatment of cancer is sufficiently benign that about 100,000 patients a day are released with this material in their bodies. However, certain other radioactive materials, dispersed in the air, could contaminate up to several city blocks, creating fear and possibly panic and requiring potentially costly cleanup. Prompt, accurate, non-emotional public information might prevent the panic sought by terrorists."

Public Domain
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Nuclear Regulatory Commission: http://www.nrc.gov/
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