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day permlink Tuesday, 11 June 2002

permlink dirty bombs

Interesting discussion of dirty bombs [PBS NewsHour] with Randall Larsen, Director of the Institute for Homeland Security at Anser Corporation, and Robert Nelson, a physicist and a member of the research staff at Princeton University's program on science and global security
LARSEN: [of] chemical, nuclear, biological, radiological-- radiological is the more likely one to do. I don't have a technical background, but I can do it. ... it will cause the fewest number of casualties. It's not a high threat to human beings. It will cause some psychological damage and economic impact, which could be significant in some cases.

NELSON: ...the radiation effects from one of these things would be very minimal. It would be, in fact, very difficult to kill or even make someone sick with a dirty bomb. What could be done, however, is produce a tremendous amount of severe economic impact because the cleanup costs down to EPA standards would be very expensive and could require evacuation of a large section of a major metropolitan area.

LARSEN: that Brazil case - he said two hundred and fifty people exposed but close to a quarter million demanded the government test them to make sure that they weren't infected with radiation or something. So the most important thing, if we have one of these, and I think there's a reasonable chance we will at some time, is that the government must step forward and communicate very effectively to the American public that fear is the worst enemy in this case. ... The cleanup is a challenge because the EPA standards are so high. We may have to revisit that.

NELSON: can't just wash this stuff off of the surface and down the sewers because it tends to bond to asphalt and to rooftops and, in fact, the official EPA guidelines for buildings that have been contaminated by some of this stuff is demolition. And that's one of the reasons why the economic consequences are so severe. We may have to demolish whole city blocks in order to bring this down to the level of the strict requirements of the EPA guidelines. ... That's a discussion we need to have. There should be a public discussion about what the EPA standards should be in a case where you have a very widespread contamination at a low level.

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