Tags: Feds | Prepare | Cities | for | Dirty | Nuke | Attacks

Feds Prepare Cities for Dirty Nuke Attacks

Monday, 27 September 2004 12:00 AM

According to Monday's New York Times, the document is intended to help those officials responsible for public health and safety decide when it's safe to go back to day-to-day activities after a radiological attack resulting from a "dirty" weapon – i.e., one that combines a conventional explosive with some type of radioactive material.

"There's a lot of consternation over what the cleanup levels should be," said Brooke Buddemeier, a radiation specialist for the Department of Homeland Security.

"We had a pretty good idea what they should be for Superfund sites or a Nuclear Regulatory Commission power plant release," she told a group of nuclear specialists last week.

Buddemeier also doubted that such an attack would be against a nuclear-related site, but rather against a higher-profile site, increasing the need for people to be able to get back and start using the area.

The government's what-to-do checklist will try to balance the danger with the "importance of the affected site to economic or political life," a radiation expert told the Times.

Cargo depots, train stations and large buildings in heavily populated New York City would be a higher priority that your average "big box" strip mall in the suburbs, for instance.

The feds already have put out guidelines for accidental radiation exposure, but the government wanted to add these terror response guidelines to reassure people that any "dirty bomb" set off by terrorists would be more of a psychological weapon than a health hazard.

The federal government already has taken steps to protect citizens in major cities and those who live near nuclear power plants by stockpiling potassium iodide. Potassium iodide works only to prevent the thyroid from taking up lethal radioactive iodine that is dispersed in the wake of a nuclear blast.

Regarding prioritization of sites, the radiation scientist told the Times: "Do you really want to shut down the port of Seattle because you don't want to get 5 or 10 million millirem of dose? Do you want to economically cripple an entire country because of that, an infinitesimally small risk, if it is any risk at all?"

In fact, the exposure to radiation thought to be possible is only fractionally more than would be experienced from natural sources.

Experts think most of the actual damage would be from the blast itself, rather than from any resulting radiation.

The document is still being worked on, and a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman said the director of the agency had it. It would go to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge from there, and then to the White House's Office of Management and Budget before publication as a guideline.

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According to Monday's New York Times, the document is intended to help those officials responsible for public health and safety decide when it's safe to go back to day-to-day activities after a radiological attack resulting from a "dirty" weapon i.e., one that combines a...
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2004-00-27
Monday, 27 September 2004 12:00 AM
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