Is ISIL a Radioactive Threat?

George M. Moore
June 17, 2015

Is ISIL a Radioactive Threat

Dirty bomb exercise, Source: California National Guard via Flicker

The following is an excerpt from an article, Is ISIL a Radioactive Threat, that originally appeared on the Federation of American Scientists blog, posted on November 7, 2014. 

In the past several months, various news stories have raised the possibility that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also commonly referred to as ISIS) could pose a radioactive threat.

Headlines have appeared in mainstream media publications and on various blog posts, such as:

  • “Iraq rebels ‘seize  nuclear materials’”
  • “Dirty bomb fears after ISIS rebels seize uranium stash”
  • “Stolen uranium compounds not only dirty bomb ingredients within ISIS’ grasp, say experts”
  • “U.S. fears ISIL smuggling nuclear and radioactive materials: ISIL could take control of radioactive, radiological materials”

Often these articles contain unrelated file photos with radioactive themes that are apparently added to catch the eye of a potential reader and/or raise their level of concern.

Is there a serious threat or are these headlines over-hyped?

Is there a real potential that ISIL could produce a “dirty bomb” and inflict radiation casualties and property damage in the United States, Europe, or any other state that might oppose ISIL as part of the recently formed U.S.-led coalition? What are the confirmed facts? What are reasonable assumptions about the situation in ISIL-controlled areas and what is a realistic assessment of the level of possible threat?

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