Countering the Threat of Radiological Weapons

July 27, 2005

Countering the Threat of Radiological Weapons

Among the unconventional weapons that a terrorist could use to attack the United States, a radiological weapon, or “dirty bomb,” is the most likely. Despite the clear threat, there are major gaps in U.S. and international efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to a radiological attack. Efforts to control devices that house radiological materials, known as “radiological sources,” are just getting off the ground. There is no domestic mechanism for reliably tracking the location and condition of all radiological sources and the situation is often worse in other countries. Detecting and intercepting illicit shipments need better coordination and more resources. The United States currently lacks the capacity to respond effectively to a radiological attack.

The Center for American Progress is convening an expert panel to discuss the threat and how best to minimize it. The Center for American Progress will also release a strategy paper, authored by Andrew J. Grotto, entitled “Defusing the Threat of Radiological Weapons: Integrating Prevention with Detection and Response.” The paper proposes a layered, risk-based strategy that would improve controls on radiological materials; build on existing efforts to identify and intercept illicit shipments of materials; and strengthen U.S. capacity to respond to an attack.

Video & Transcript
• Introduction: Video
• Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg: Video
• Dr. Benn Tannenbaum: Video
• Andrew J. Grotto: Video
• Panel Discussion: Video
• Q&A Session: Video
• Transcript:  Full text (PDF)

Panelists

Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg is a Senior Scientist at the Nuclear Threat Initiative. She previously served as NTI’s Vice President for the Biological Program. Before coming to NTI, Dr. Hamburg was Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is a physician and expert in public health and bioterrorism. Dr. Hamburg was the Commissioner of Health for the City of New York and former Assistant Director of the Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. She is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science, the Intelligence Science Board, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Study Group and is a fellow for the American Association of the Advancement of Science. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Dr. Benn Tannenbaum is a Senior Program Associate at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy. Prior to joining the association, Tannenbaum worked as a Senior Research Analyst for the Federation of American Scientists. Dr. Tannenbaum served as the 2002-2003 American Physical Society Congressional Science Fellow, working for Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA) on nonproliferation issues. He received his B.A. in Physics from Grinnell College, IA; M.S. in Physics from Michigan State University; and Ph.D. in Physics from The University of New Mexico.

Andrew J. Grotto is a National Security Analyst at the Center for American Progress. At the Center, Mr. Grotto writes on weapons of mass destruction proliferation, focusing on nuclear and radiological weapons. He received his J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley (Boalt Hall), his master’s degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Lawrence Korb is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Senior Advisor to the Center for Defense Information. He was Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration (1981-85). Prior to joining the Center, he was a Senior Fellow and Director of National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. From July 1998 to October 2002, he was Council Vice President, Director of Studies, and holder of the Maurice Greenberg Chair. Prior to joining the Council, Dr. Korb served as Director of the Center for Public Policy Education and Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution, Dean of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, and Vice President of Corporate Operations at the Raytheon Company.

Location

Center for American Progress, 1333 H St. NW, 10th Floor, Washington, DC , 20005