- What are electromagnetic fields?
- Static and low-frequency fields
- What are static and low-frequency fields?
- Reports & Evaluations
- Radiation protection relating to the expansion of the national grid
- Basics transfer of electrical power
- High-frequency fields
- What are high-frequency fields?
- Applications high-frequency fields
- Radiation protection in mobile communication
- What is mobile communication?
- Reports and evaluations
- What is optical radiation?
- UV radiation
- What is UV radiation?
- Sun but safe!
- Effects of UV radiation
- Protection against UV radiation
- UV index
- Infrared radiation
- What is ionising radiation?
- Radioactivity in the environment
- Where does radioactivity occur in the environment?
- What is the level of natural radiation exposure in Germany?
- Air, soil and water
- Building materials
- Industrial residues (NORM)
- BfS laboratories
- Applications in medicine
- Applications in daily life and in technology
- Radioactive radiation sources in Germany
- Register high-level radioactive radiation sources
- Type approval procedure pursuant to RöV and StrlSchV
- Cabin luggage security checks
- Radioactive materials in watches
- Ionisation smoke detectors (ISM)
- What are the effects of radiation?
- Acute radiation damage
- Effects of selected radioactive materials
- Consequences of a radiation accident
- Cancer and leukaemia
- Genetic radiation effects
- Individual radiosensitivity
- Epidemiology of radiation-induced diseases
- Ionising radiation: positive effects?
- Risk estimation and assessment
- Radiation protection
- Basic informations
- Occupational radiation protection
- Nuclear accident management
- What happens in an emergency?
- Federal and state tasks
- In the event of an emergency
- Measuring networks
- Exercises for emergency situations
- Nuclear accidents
- Defence against nuclear hazards
- Defence against nuclear hazards
- "Dirty bomb"
- Service offers
- Radon measurements
- Incorporation monitoring
- Biological dosimetry
- About us
- Science and research
- Research concept
- Scientific collaborations
- EU research framework programme
- BfS research programme
- Third-party funded research
- Departmental research
- Selected research projects
- Selected research results
- Professional opinions
- Laws and regulations
- BfS Topics in the Bundestag
Misuse of radioactive material in connection with an unconventional explosive device ("dirty bomb")
- Dirty bombs are devices which make use of conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material.
- The potential radiological danger caused by a "dirty bomb" is generally over-estimated.
- Aside from the objective assessment of the radiological danger, associations with the known effects of radiation and its possible health effects, which are long-held among the population, can cause psychological effects.
The dirty bomb scenario is of prime concern in recent international efforts to secure highly radioactive sources against terrorist abuse and use in weapons of mass destruction. Dirty bombs are devices which make use of conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) defines a dirty bomb as a device constructed from conventional explosives and radioactive material, the detonation of which would result in the dispersion of the radioactive material contained in the bomb into the environment.
In the USA the term "radiological dispersion device ( RDD)" is used. The German equivalent is "USBV-A". The use of a "dirty bomb" and comparable scenarios are considered possible misuses of radioactive materials.
Potential radiological danger
The potential radiological danger caused by a "dirty bomb" is generally over-estimated. Even for a high-activity caesium-137 source, the dose rates for the public very close to the point of release (i.e. very close to the centre of the explosion) would be so low, that extra radiation protection measures (e.g. staying inside or evacuation) would not be necessary.
The situation is different if plutonium-239 is used in a dirty bomb, as it has a much higher radiotoxicity compared to all other radionuclides considered. Scenarios are possible in which emergency management measures would be necessary up to a few kilometres away from the point of release, as effective dose rates of 100 mSv for members of the public could not be ruled out. An effective dose of 100 mSv is the decision value which is also used for the evacuation of the public during emergeny or disaster management of a nuclear accident resulting in a release of radioactive material.
Aside from the objective assessment of the radiological danger, associations with the known effects of radiation and its possible health effects, which are long-held among the population, can cause psychological effects, such as; uncertainty (authoritarianism, aggression), feeling over-whelmed (distress), anxiety and excessive responses (hysteria, hyper-activity and over-communication).
The causes of the psychological consequences mentioned above are, in particular; the association with nuclear weapons, the devastating results of the nuclear weapons deployment in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the latent threat during the cold war, and the feeling of helplessness regarding the detection - humans have no way to sense radiation - and the control of these dangers.
Based on the level of knowledge gained in general emergency preparedness and response, the BfS has commissioned additional investigations into methods of informing the public on the topic of terror threats. Currently, these questions are being investigated in the research project "Public communication and measures for nuclear emergency management not arising from technical nuclear facilities in connection with new forms of threat: Precautionary information and information management in the event of nuclear terrorism".
The initial results (see report below, pp. 72 to 74) show, that the public discussion on the risks of nuclear energy are also an important factor in this regard, as it influences the ability of those affected (state and citizen) to communicate. Along with the development of strategies for public relations after an event, precautionary information for the public before an event is of high importance.
State of 2017.07.19