Global Risk of Nuclear Terrorism

Emily Diez, Terrance Clark, Caroline Zaw-Mon

Akribis Group and the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies

Author Biography

Emily Diez is a researcher for the Akribis Group and the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies. She is also a graduate student at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research has focused on counterterrorism, nonproliferation, and the causes of ethnic conflict. Prior to her studies at Georgia Tech, she taught English in Spain and traveled extensively throughout Europe. She received Bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and International Studies, with a concentration in Social and Cultural Identity, from the University of Mississippi and studied abroad in Salamanca and Valencia, Spain.

Caroline Zaw-Mon is a researcher for the Akribis Group and the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies. She recently completed her graduate degrees in International Studies and International Business at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies and the Daniels College of Business. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in History from Vanderbilt University and has worked in emergency management and international development.

Terrance Clark is a researcher for the Akribis Group and the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies. He received his Master of Science in International Affairs from the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His research has focused on international security, counterinsurgency, and conflict resolution. During his studies at Georgia Tech, he worked for the Center for Strategy, Technology, and Policy (CISTP) and studied abroad in Europe. He obtained his Associate of Arts and Science and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Emory University. In his spare time, Mr. Clark is a creative writer of poetry.

DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.5038/1944-0472.3.1.2

Subject Area Keywords

Al-Qaida, Global trends and risks, International institutions, International security, Nuclear weapons and nonproliferation, Weapons of mass destruction

Abstract

The emergence of nuclear terrorism, a threat that President Obama called “the gravest danger we face,” has signaled a paradigm shift in international security. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, sensitive nuclear technologies and materials have become increasingly available. Globalization and the inadequate enforcement of treaties and export controls have allowed the proliferation of nuclear weapons materials. Today, international terrorist organizations seek to employ weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as a means to influence national policies around the world. AlQaida spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith declared that in order to balance the injustices that have been inflicted on the Muslim population worldwide, al-Qaida’s new objective is “to kill 4 million Americans–2 million of them children.” As political scientist Graham Allison notes, this could be achieved with either 1,334 attacks similar in magnitude to those of 9/11, or one nuclear bomb.Building a nuclear program is an arduous task that requires tacit knowledge, the recruitment of nuclear scientists, engineers, and machinists, and the resources and time to obtain nuclear materials and components. While it is unlikely that terrorist organizations have the capacity to develop full-fledged programs in the near term, terrorist development and acquisition of nuclear weapons remains a long-term threat that requires international action.

Recommended Citation

Diez, Emily; Clark, Terrance; and Zaw-Mon, Caroline. “Global Risk of Nuclear Terrorism.” Journal of Strategic Security 3, no. 1 (2010): 19-30.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5038/1944-0472.3.1.2

Journal of Strategic Security