Dirty bombs: May Cost Billions

“Dirty bombs may cost billions in direct and indirect costs”.

Recently, Risk Analysis, a peer reviewed journal published details in a paper titled “Assessment of the Regional Economic Impacts of Catastrophic Events: CGE Analysis of Resource Loss and Behavioral Effects of an RDD Attack Scenario”.

I got particularly interested in this  paper because, one of the authors Dr Paul Slovic, is a veteran in decision research. His articles taught me a few important points in risk communication.

You can access the paper at:


For the past many years, it has been fashionable for many to portray vividly the consequences of a dirty bomb attack on a prominent target. Accepting many assumptions, some of the elite faculty and researchers of think tanks maximize the impact.

On February 13, 2004 The Hindustan Times carried a scary news item. Kishore Kuchibhotla and Matthew Mckinzie at Henry L. Stimson Centre, Washington, estimated the possible effects of a dirty bomb. The original report gives many helpful hints to the would-be terrorists!

The scholars chose cobalt -60 as the radioactive material, five pounds of TNT  as the explosive and Lutyen’s Delhi as the location to estimate the impact.

In a day or two, Mr H K Dua, then Editor in Chief of The Tribune requested me to write an OP/ED on the topic. This may be accessed at:


OR at:

www.dae.gov.in/press/dirtybomb.htm, the official web site of the Department of Atomic Energy, India

I got the impression that these think tanks give very many helpful hints to the would be terrorists!

Since the world is weird and the behaviour of terrorists unpredictable, we must communicate with people during peace time and get them ready to face the challenges posed by terrorism. Ignorance can help to magnify the impact of even minor events involving radioactivity.

I wrote many things about mitigating the consequences  from exploding  a Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD). Now I realize more than ever, tackling radioactive contamination, though important,  is only a minor part of  such a dastardly event


About ksparthasarathy

I am a former Secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. I am a former Raja Ramanna Fellow in the Department of Atomic Energy. Free lance journalism is my hobby
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