Accession Number : ADA444774

Title :   Terrorist Nuclear Attacks on Seaports: Threat and Response

Descriptive Note : Congressional rept.

Corporate Author : LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE

Personal Author(s) : Medalia, Jonathan

PDF Url : ADA444774

Report Date : 24 JAN 2005

Pagination or Media Count : 7

Abstract : Terrorists have tried to obtain weapons of mass destruction (WMD). While it would probably be more difficult for terrorists to obtain or fabricate a nuclear weapon than other WMD, an attack using a nuclear weapon merits consideration because it would have more severe consequences. U.S. seaports could be targets for a terrorist attack. A Hiroshima-sized nuclear bomb (15 kilotons, the equivalent of 15,000 tons of TNT) detonated in a port would destroy buildings out to a mile or two; start fires, especially in a port that handled petroleum and chemicals; spread fallout over many square miles; disrupt commerce; and kill many people. Many ports are in major cities. By one estimate, a 10- to 20-kiloton weapon detonated in a major seaport would kill 50,000 to 1 million people and would result in direct property damage of $50 to $500 billion, losses due to trade disruption of $100 billion to $200 billion, and indirect costs of $300 billion to $1.2 trillion. Terrorists might try to smuggle a bomb into a U.S. port in many ways, but containers may offer an attractive route. A container is a metal box, typically 8 ft wide by 8 1/2 ft high by 20 ft or 40 ft long, that can be used on and moved between a tractor-trailer, a rail car, or a ship. Nearly 9 million containers a year enter the United States by ship. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) screens data for all containers, and reportedly inspects about 6 percent of them. Containers could easily hold a nuclear weapon. Many believe that ports and containers are vulnerable. A terrorist group might obtain a nuclear bomb by several plausible routes, from Russia or Pakistan or by building a bomb. The main approach to reducing vulnerability to a terrorist nuclear attack is defense in depth (i.e., using multiple methods to detect and interdict a weapon). Bills related to terrorist nuclear attacks on ports include H.R. 163, Secure Domestic Container Partnership Act of 2005, and H.R. 173, Anti-Terrorism and Port Security Act of 2005.

Descriptors :   *UNITED STATES, *DETECTION, *TARGETS, *RESPONSE, *PORTS(FACILITIES), *NUCLEAR BOMBS, *PREVENTION, TERRORISTS, MARINE TRANSPORTATION, LEGISLATION, HOMELAND SECURITY, DEFENSE IN DEPTH, SMUGGLING, SHIPPING CONTAINERS, PROTECTION, INSPECTION, ATTACK, VULNERABILITY, THREATS, POLICIES

Subject Categories : Surface Transportation and Equipment
      Civil Defense
      Nuclear Weapons

Distribution Statement : APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE