What Type Of Terrorist Events Might Involve Radiation?


Possible terrorist events that could could involve radiation include the following.

Introducing radioactive material into the food or water supply

Using explosives (like dynamite) to scatter radioactive materials (called a ‘dirty bomb’)

Bombing or destroying a nuclear facility

Exploding a small nuclear device


Introducing radioactive material into the food or water supply most likely would cause great concern or fear, much more so than the resultant danger. In reality it probably would not cause contamination to the extent that there would be grave danger of terribly adverse health effects compared to other mechanisms. However the fear placed in the minds of the public who will not fully understand the scope of the risk, will bring about panic and a rapid shortage of store-bought food and water.

A ‘dirty bomb’ will cause serious injuries from the explosion itself and will send shock waves of panic throughout the population. It probably would not have enough radioactive material in a form that would cause serious radiation sickness among large numbers of people. However, people who were exposed to radiation scattered by the bomb would have a greater risk of developing cancer, depending on their dose. The greatest damage will be from the panicked mindset of the general population, most of whom will become extremely afraid while not knowing what to do or the realities of such an event.

An ‘accident’ or explosion at a nuclear facility could cause a large amount of radioactive material to be released. People at the facility or nearby would probably be contaminated with radioactive material and possibly be injured if there was an explosion. Those people who received a large dose might develop acute radiation syndrome. People in the surrounding area could be exposed or contaminated. The follow-on effects of this type of disaster could be very wide spread depending on the extent of damage or meltdown.

An exploded nuclear bomb, clearly would result in massive property damage. People would be killed or injured from the blast and contaminated by radioactive material depending on their distance from the blast. Many people could have symptoms of acute radiation sickness. After a nuclear explosion, radioactive fallout would extend over a large region far from the point of impact, increasing people’s risk of developing cancer.


Preparations For A Radiation Emergency

As with any basic preparedness plan, have adequate food and water stored in your home.

Have a plan. This means that everyone in your family should know their options of where to go and what to do in the event of this emergency.

Have a preparedness kit in your car. This includes at a minimum, enough food (calorie dense ‘power-bars’ or other such foods) and bottled water to ‘bug out’ to another location – even if only temporary, flashlight and batteries, first aid kit, personal items like TP, etc., a backpack / shoulder pack to hold the ‘stuff’ in your kit, walking shoes, some cash, and any other item that you feel will help you to get from point A to point B.

A face mask will help prevent particulate radiation from being breathed in to your lungs if you are nearby the event. This will not help with electromagnetic radiation though.

A battery operated portable radio will provide valuable information about the event and what to do.

Potassium iodide (KI) should only be taken in a radiation emergency that involves the release of radioactive iodine, such as an accident at a nuclear power plant or the explosion of a nuclear bomb. A “dirty bomb” most likely will not contain radioactive iodine. KI only protects the thyroid gland (from developing cancer) and does not provide protection from any other radiation exposure. Some people are allergic to iodine and should not take KI. Check with your doctor about any concerns you have about potassium iodide.

Distance. For radiation emergencies, putting distance between you and the source drastically reduces exposure. This depends of course on prevailing winds, the type of radiation, and the type of disaster.

Density. Putting heavy dense material between you and the source of electromagnetic radiation will reduce your exposure. Being underground provides a tremendous protection with even just a few feet of earth (dirt).


Although a radiation emergency event may seem very unlikely, the fact is the IF it were to occur, the general public will likely be your biggest problem… Their panic and subsequent irrational actions could affect you badly if you have not already prepared or thought it through. The truth is, other people will become THE problem. The trigger will be just that… the dirty bomb, the contamination, the explosion… the real damage occurs afterwards, when the unprepared people can no longer get what they need.


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One Comment

  1. Hey, good to hear the topic talked about rationally, as it’s a scary one who’s threat is often overblown.

    Radioactivity added to the water or food supply, and a dirty bomb, would in reality probably cause few causalities. The radiation would disperse quite quickly. The following stampede of people however, trying to get out of dodge, is another matter entirely.

    Bombing a nuclear facility, or setting off an actual nuclear bomb, are of course genuine threats, and are probably some of the worst things that could happen.

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