Nuclear power is the energy that powers everything from submarines to space shuttles.
These incredible machines have come a long way since just being used as explosive weapons of war during World War II, and nuclear power has become a large part of our everyday lives. Unfortunately for us, this means that just about anyone could obtain a source of nuclear power from its three main ingredients: uranium-235, plutonium-239 and uranium-233. Now, these materials are not exactly easy for an international terrorist to obtain considering they require quite some effort and know-how but there is very little stopping them from obtaining it if they really wanted to. In fact, according to the Center For Defense Information terrorists already have two ways of going about doing so, and even if they don’t have these methods, it’s only a matter of time before they find one.
The first way terrorists could obtain nuclear power is through the purchase of already fabricated weapons-grade uranium or plutonium. One can easily go online and find that there are countless sites that sell materials like this to any individual with enough cash on hand. Now considering you probably need several thousand dollars for your average workable nuclear weapon, it’s unlikely many terrorist groups would be able to afford it; however, the possibility still cannot be entirely dismissed either.
The second method terrorist could use in order to acquire their own source of power is by building an improvised “dirty” bomb. An IED involves taking radioactive materials such as cobalt-60, strontium-90 or caesium chloride and placing them in the path of an explosive device. The explosion would then shoot this radioactive material into several pieces scattering it across a large area. This method is faster and easier than trying to construct an actual nuclear weapon out of uranium, but it still requires quite some knowledge about chemistry which can be hard to come by in most terrorist organizations.
Now one might ask themselves why terrorists are even interested in obtaining something like this when they could simply purchase firearms instead? Well, there are quite a few reasons for this actually; but the main ones are that guns are not exactly reliable when you really want to kill hundreds or thousands of people in one go, while radiation can kill just as effectively as the gun, but with a higher chance of survival.
Now not much thought is given to the safety of nuclear power because it’s seen as an energy source that can help us, but if terrorists were able to obtain this source of power either legally or illegally then they could use these objects like any other weapon. They would find that it’s incredibly easy for them to contaminate entire cities without having to worry about capture by police forces because radiation cannot be easily detected by eye and even if authorities did manage to locate any radioactive material left behind, there is nothing stopping anyone from ingesting or inhaling it which makes it harder for investigators to tell how severe the damage was.
So now the question must be asked: What exactly can we do to prevent something like this from happening? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is doing a better job at regulating how much uranium or plutonium any single individual could purchase online, but considering the number of people who trade in these materials on a regular basis, there would be too many loopholes for everyone to comply with. The second solution might be a bit more complicated and would involve having every person who owns a device containing radioactive material get it tested by professionals once a year. This would also include testing all nuclear power plants and nuclear submarines as well.
While the above solutions may seem too extreme for some people, one must remember that there are currently over 27 different terrorist groups around the world who want nothing more than to kill as many people as possible, and that number can only be expected to rise in the future. So the time to take action is now before things get any worse.