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Nuclear Terrorism: Reactor Sabotage And Weapons Proliferation Risks

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  • PAUL L LEVENTHAL
  • MILTON M. HOENIG

Abstract

Nuclear power plants and research reactors are vulnerable to acts of terrorism that could render safety systems inoperable and result in catastrophic releases of radioactivity. In addition, expanding civil commerce in weapon‐usable forms of plutonium and uranium and deploying tactical nuclear weapons in areas where terrorists are active increase the risk of terrorists' building or stealing nuclear weapons or, even more likely, carrying out a credible hoax. The United States and other advanced industrialized nations should be concerned about nuclear terrorism, the threat of which now is perceived as low. However, if terrorist groups become more determined, violent, and technologically advanced, as some experts anticipate, then the possibility of nuclear terrorism will likely increase with little warning. Nuclear terrorism, regardless of where it occurs, could have far‐reaching consequences for economic stability and world peace. Western Europe is a region of continuing concern due to its high level of “nuclearization”–that is, civil and military nuclear development–and the presence of sophisticated terrorist organizations operating across national boundaries. This paper reviews potential dangers and available remedies based on the report of the International Task Force on Prevention of Nuclear Terrorism, on policy and technical studies prepared for the Task Force, and on follow‐up research conducted by the Nuclear Control Institute, the Task Force's sponsoring organization.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul L Leventhal & Milton M. Hoenig, 1990. "Nuclear Terrorism: Reactor Sabotage And Weapons Proliferation Risks," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 8(3), pages 106-121, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:coecpo:v:8:y:1990:i:3:p:106-121
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1465-7287.1990.tb00648.x
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