Dirty bomb - a threat?


  • Bergman Ronny
  • Johansson Erik
  • Hånell Plamboeck Agneta
  • Sandström Björn
  • Thaning Lennart
  • Ulvsand Thomas
  • Ågren Göran

Publish date: 2006-01-01

Report number: FOI-R--1973--SE

Pages: 40

Written in: Swedish


  • Ionizing radiation
  • radioactive source
  • radiation dose
  • terrorism
  • dispersial
  • stochastic dispersion model
  • IRD


The potential use of dirty bombs, i.e. conventional explosives packed with radioactive material has been a point of significant concern in recent years. The primary cause for the increasing interest is the fear that terrorists could stage such an attack. This study opens with an evaluation of the availability and handling of radioactive sources which shows the potential for a perpetrator managing to obtain radioactive material from abroad into Sweden. However, the likelihood for a potential perpetrator to use strong radioactive sources in an attack causing acute radiation sickness is reduced due to a few available sources of that magnitude. Still, should a perpetrator manage to obtain a strong radioactive source, actual handling and development of an efficient disperion device would depend on the willingness of the perpetrator to expose himself/herself in the process. Although the risk for a high number of people receiving high radiation doses after a dirty bomb attack is low, the consequences can not be ignored. Late stochastic consequences might appear, e.g. by higher cancer frequency at considerably lower doses.