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Nuclear terrorism

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Nuclear terrorism can be used to describe any of the following terrorist assaults:

  1. Use of nuclear weapons against a civilian target
  2. Use of a radiological weapon or dirty bomb against a civilian target
  3. An attack against a nuclear power plant

Some believe that no such act has ever taken place. Others believe that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki constitute such an act (though much of this assessment would depend on the definition of "terrorism" one used). The threat of marginalized terrorist organizations using nuclear weapons (especially very small ones, such as suitcase nukes) has been a threat in American rhetoric and culture since at least the 1970s.

In June 2002, U.S. citizen Jose Padilla was arrested for allegedly planning a radiological attack on the city of Washington, DC; Padilla is currently (as of 2005) under military arrest as an "illegal combatant".

In August 2002, the United States launched a program to track and secure enriched uranium from 24 Soviet-style reactors in 16 countries, in order to reduce the risk of the materials falling into the hands of terrorists or "rogue states". The first such operation was Project Vinca, an operation in Serbia "to remove a quantity of highly enriched uranium, sufficient to produce 2-1/2 nuclear weapons from a research reactor near downtown Belgrade" [1] (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2002/12962.htm).

In order to reduce the danger of attacks using nuclear waste material, European Union Commissioner Loyola de Palacio suggested in November 2002 the creation of common standards in the European Union, especially in the new member states operating Soviet-era reactors, for subterranean nuclear waste disposal.

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