Radiological Terrorism: A Sochi Surprise?

Jerry Davydov
February 12, 2014

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Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:
Radiological Terrorism: A Sochi surprise?

Sochi Olympics Cluster
With the Sochi Olympics less than a week away, there has been growing anxiety about the security of the athletes, Olympic personnel, and spectators attending the Games. Security was been stepped up following the double suicide attacks in Volgograd that killed over 34 people in December 2013. Reporting bordered on the frantic, as Russian authorities continue to receive new names and photographs of would-be female suicide bombers, dubbed “black widows.”

Following several threat to the Olympics from prominent terrorists in the North Caucasus, as well as the promise of a “surprise package” from two would-be suicide bombers, there has been concern that terrorists will attempt to use a radiological dispersal device, commonly known as a ‘dirty bomb’, during the Games.

The Threat

In this Bulletin of Atomic Scientists article, Eurasia Nonproliferation Program Research Associate Jerry Davydov analyzes the risk posed to the Sochi Olympics by terrorists in the North Caucuses. Considering the pattern of seizures of radioactive material across the Caucasus over the past two decades, it is possible that one of the groups in the North Caucasus might possess small amounts of radioactive material, and have the ability to construct a ‘dirty bomb.’ Given the threat of terrorist action against the Sochi Olympics, as well as numerous attempts of terrorists in the North Caucuses to acquire nuclear or radioactive materials, the threat of radiological terrorism must be taken seriously.

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