Terrorism refers to an array of violent acts that are usually carried out by perpetrators with the sole intention of causing terror. Terrorist’s acts are often perpetrated to accomplish certain religious, political and philosophical objectives. The acts are usually unlawful and they mainly target to violate the wellbeing of non-combatant civilians. Terrorism acts may also be used by certain criminal organizations that mainly include politically oriented groups to instill a code of silence. The term terrorism can be used to describe a tactic, a criminal act or a justified action intended to respond to acts of oppression and abomination. When used as a tactic, terrorism becomes an effective approach that can defend the weaker side of violence. Terrorism has however been widely used to perpetuate an aspect of coercion among individuals or organizations pursuing to achieve extreme goals.
Such acts may be carried out in absolute confidentiality thereby denying the adversary any ability to know the extent of the threat, and as such, they may confuse terrorist attacks with criminal activities. Terrorism defines an act of employing a type of well-calculated threat to instill fear among individuals so as to coerce or intimidate societies or state authorities to achieve certain political, religious or ideological objectives. Terrorism can also refer to the unlawful use of violence against individuals or property so as to intimidate state authority while on the other hand seeking to achieve certain political, religious or social objectives. Acts of terrorism can be perpetuating using different types of weapons that may be chemical, radiological, biological or nuclear in nature. This paper intends to create a scenario where a terrorist attack may be perpetrated using a nuclear weapon, which in this case will include nuclear surface burst so as to provide a perspective on how such an attack can be prevented. The paper will mainly look at the selected CBRN agent, a proposed terrorist scenario and a proposed prevention strategy.
A nuclear Terrorist attack using a one-kiloton surface burst
Nuclear terrorist attacks define the types of unlawful attacks that are usually perpetrated using explosive devices that usually obtain their destructive force from a series of nuclear reactions. While such reactions can result from fission or fusion of nuclear materials, both reactions can result to creation of large amounts of energy released from a relatively small amount of matter. A nuclear weapon weighing as little as 2,400 pounds is capable of producing an explosive force that is equivalent to an explosion weighing over 1.1 tons. On this note, a nuclear device that is smaller than a traditional bomb is capable of producing enough impact to devastate an entire city through blast, ignition and radiation. Study has shown that nuclear weapons have been considered the most effective weapons of mass destruction, and as such, their usage and management has assumed a central position in international relations policy.
A surface burst is the main agent that will be used in the planned nuclear terrorist attack. A surface burst defines a type of nuclear explosive device that explodes to release lethal nuclear materials upon hitting the ground. When a surface burst is released to the ground, there is fission of uranium compounds or fusion of isotopes that ultimately result to generation of large amounts of energy. The products that result from the nuclear reactions are then raised to very high temperatures. The maximum temperatures that result from the nuclear reactions are equivalent to tens of millions degrees, and as such, they convert all materials forming on top of the nuclear materials into gaseous form. With the gases being concentrated at the region of explosion, tremendous pressure that is several millions higher than the prevailing atmospheric pressure is usually generated. As a result, the extremely hot nuclear residues begin to absorb in the surrounding atmosphere within a millionth of a second after the nuclear device is detonated. The resulting cloud may last in a visible state for about one hour but it is usually dispersed by the wind into different directions where it merges with air in the surrounding.
A surface burst perpetuates instantaneous effects that may be felt in form of blast, fallouts as well as ionizing and thermal radiations. The blast effect is the most severe as it attributes to massive destruction on physical structures and human beings. The effect on physical structures is usually attributed by the high degree of pressure that is usually generated at the point of detonation. Such impact include creation of huge craters as soil, rocks and debris in the surrounding are vaporized, which may in return result to demolition of buildings among other physical structures. Destructions resulting from the blast impact usually take place within 0.8-kilometer radius from the detonation point. Prompt radiation is another major instantaneous effect that results from detonation of a surface burst. Detonation of a small amount of nuclear materials can generate prompt radiations that can attribute to severe fatalities among 90 to 100 percent of all individuals encountering contaminated air. Casualties coming into contact with the prompt radiations can exhibit fatal symptoms related to radiation sickness.
Thermal radiations are equally among the major effects that result from nuclear surface burst. Nuclear detonations generate high levels of temperature that can penetrate and ultimately destroy the skin of human body. Severe burns can thus develop on human skin as a result of direct exposure to detonation. Conversely, secondary effects that range from generation of fires and destruction of electrical lines can result from thermal radiations. Local fallouts also result from nuclear surface bursts, and they usually begin to develop a few minutes after the detonation has taken place. The fallouts can continue diversifying to other parts of the surrounding within the next twenty four to forty eight hours, depending on the direction and speed of the wind. Radiations generated from the fallouts usually have a cumulative impact on the human body. The cumulative effects can range from fatal symptoms of sickness, trauma, cancer, genetic mutations and death. Detonation of nuclear surface bursts can also result to an electromagnetic pulse that may destroy power lines and computers that can in return disrupt communication networks.
Proposed attack scenario
As the key terrorist intending to conduct a major terror attack in one of the major cities in United States, I will begin my operations by ensuring that I have the relevant materials to be used in the attack. This will mainly include ensuring that I have enough fissile materials that can be used to make a critical one-kiloton nuclear material that will be kept in a subcritical state before it is detonated. In order to ensure that the nuclear weapon is maintained in a subcritical state, I will ensure that the fissile materials are arranged in a manner that ensures spontaneous neutrons are not capable of beginning any chain of reaction before the nuclear substance hits the ground where it will translate into a state of extreme criticality. The one-kiloton nuclear material will then be carefully loaded in a truck and delivered at the downward section of the New York City in United States. An important consideration when selecting the best place where the nuclear device will be detonated will include ensuring that the location has a smooth surface to ensure that the impact of the weapon will not be disrupted by the presence of many tall constructions. This will ensure that the detonated lethal materials will easily be blown by the wind to the surrounding areas. The number of potential casualties will also determine selection of the location where the nuclear device will be dropped. While a one-kiloton nuclear device has the capacity to affect up to 5 million people, this particular attack will mainly target not less one million people.
After the truck has been parked, in a safe location where it cannot raise any suspicion, a public announcement from an anonymous source will then be aired, which will state that a nuclear device has been planted in one of the major cities in the country. The announcement will further claim that the device is ready to be detonated at any given moment if the US president would not make a public announcement that he is willing to withdraw his troops from attacking Muslim territories. While the device will have been packed in a garbage collection truck, nobody will be able to suspect the truck as one of the possible locations where the device would have been planted. A helicopter will be on standby, and this will be used to evacuate the men that will detonate the device.
If the US government does not give any positive response on our demands, the nuclear surface burst will be released to the ground and radioactive materials will begin to disperse downwind within the next twenty-four hours. Major disruptions on critical infrastructures will be witnessed, and this will inhibit emergency responders from accessing the most severely affected areas. The high level of radiations will also demand for the emergency responders that might access the location using aircrafts to wait for some days before exposing themselves to the radiation materials. Conversely, roads near the blast zone will mainly be impassable due to high deposits of debris and abandoned automobiles. Destruction of major infrastructures will ensure that most people are stuck within the blast zone, which will significantly raise the overall number of casualty while on the other hand inhibiting any rescue operations from taking place.
How such an attack can be prevented
Effectively countering a potential nuclear terrorist attack is the best approach through which the effective negative consequences related to such attacks can be prevented. The best way through which nuclear terrorist attacks can be prevented is through ensuring that terrorists do not have any access to fissile materials that can be used to fabricate nuclear explosives. While nuclear weapons cannot be made without fissile materials, such materials can be kept from the “wrong hands” to ensure that terrorists do not have means to device nuclear weapons. A suitable example of where such efforts have proven to bear fruits is Russia. Russia does not lose any materials from the Kremlin Armory, which denies terrorists the capacity to create any new supplies of nuclear weapons. Even though technological knowhow relating to how such materials can be created still exist among members of the public, they often require large amenities that would easily be visible hence attracting the attention of authorities. In order to effectively implement this idea, the US government can for example establish an independent agency that can control arms to ensure that fissile materials cannot be used for mass destruction.
Nuclear attacks are among the most destructive types of unlawful attacks that may often be perpetrated to instill fear among members of the public to gain political, social, religious or ideological dominance. Nuclear devices are particularly lethal and they can attribute to an array of severe consequences that include radiations, burns, fallouts and destruction of physical structures. A one-kiloton surface burst is one of the key agents that can be used by terrorists to conduct a nuclear attack. The device is usually kept in a subcritical state and only becomes super-critical when it is detonated on the ground. In order to cause havoc and terror while securing an appropriate escape route when a nuclear device is detonated, terrorists should ensure that everything necessary for the attack is in place, make an anonymous announcement of a potential attack, detonate the device and escape from the attack zone using a helicopter. Such attacks should however be prevented by ensuring that fissile materials that can be used to create illegal weapons do not end up in the wrong hands.
Christopher, Joyner, Ian Alexander. “Nuclear Terrorism in Globalizing World: Assessing the Threat and the Emerging Management Regime.” Stanford Journal and International Law 45, no.2 (2009):67-88.
Davis, Lynn et al. Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear and Biological Terrorist Attacks. Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2003.
Jenkins, Brian, Godges, John. The Long Shadow of 9/11: America’s Response to Terrorism, Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2011.
Mueller, John. Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Nawaz, Jaspal. “Nuclear/Radiological Terrorism: Myth or Reality?” Journal of Political Studies 58, no. 1(2012):23-45.
 Lynn Davis. Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear and Biological Terrorist Attacks. (Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2003) 60.
 Ibid 68
 Ibid 73
 Joyner Christopher and Alexander Ian. “Nuclear Terrorism in Globalizing World: Assessing the Threat and the Emerging Management Regime.” Stanford Journal and International Law 45, no.2 (2009):67.
 Ibid 68
 Ibid 69
 John Mueller. Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010) 117.
 Ibid 121
 Ibid 127
 Jaspal Nawaz. “Nuclear/Radiological Terrorism: Myth or Reality?” Journal of Political Studies 58, no. 1(2012)23.
 ibid 26
 Ibid 30
 Lynn Davis. Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear and Biological Terrorist Attacks. (Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2003) 71
 Ibid 75
 Brian Jenkins and John Godges. The Long Shadow of 9/11: America’s Response to Terrorism, (Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2011) 11.
 Ibid 17
 Ibid 23
 Jaspal Nawaz. “Nuclear/Radiological Terrorism: Myth or Reality?” Journal of Political Studies 58, no. 1(2012) 33.