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Terrorism covers a board range of hazards.  Terrorism includes physical acts such as hijackings, assassinations, and assaults using small arms.  However, the predominate means for causing large-scale terrorist terrorist incidents resulting in significant Consequence Management (COM) requirements is through the employment of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE)agents and materials.

Chemical Terrorism - Chemical terrorism includes the use of chemical warfare agents (CWA), non-traditional agents (NTA), and toxic industrial materials (TIM).

Biological Terrorism - Biological terrorism includes the use of biological warfare agents (BWA).  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists 51 different biological agents that could be used in bioterrorism attacks.  The following describes the difference biological agents that could be used in bioterrorism attacks.  The following describes the different paths that terrorists might use biological agent in the Agriculture industry, to include processed food.

Biological Terrorism & Food Safety - Food terrorism is an act or threat of deliberate contamination of food for human consumption with chemical, biological,or radio nuclear-agents for the purpose of causing injury or death to civilian populations and /or disrupting social, economic, or political stability.  Terrorists can attack our food supply at several stages along the food chain by:

  • Targeting livestock and crops during production, harvesting, storage, or transport (this is called agricultural bioterrorism or agroterrorism).
  • Targeting processed foods during the processing, manufacturing, storage, transport, distribution, or service of such foods (this is call terrorism targeting processed foods).

Agricultural Biological Terrorism - This type of bioterrorism is directed towards livestock and crops.  An agroterrorism attack in the United States would likely be a part of economic warfare.  Economic warfare is the intentional harming of a nation's agricultural or ecological infrastructure by use of a biologic weapon.  The U.S. livestock industry alone has annual revenues of approximately $150 billion, and, thus, is a prime target for economic warfare.  The Agricultural Bioterrorism Protection Act of 2002 is a subpart of reference(b).  It was designed to improve the ability of the U.S.government to prevent, prepare for, and respond to Bioterrorism and other public health emergencies that could threaten American agriculture.

Radiological Terrorism - Because of recent terrorist events, concern is higher about the possibility of a terrorist attack involving radioactive materials, possibly of a terrorist attack involving radioactive materials, possibly through the use of a "dirty bomb," and the harmful effects of radiation from such an event.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has prepared this fact sheet to help people understand what a dirty bomb is and how it may effect their health.  An explosive RDD is a device that combines conventional explosives, such as dynamite, with radioactive materials in the form of powder or pellets.  The idea behind a "dirty bomb" is to blast radioactive material into the area around the explosion.  This could possibly cause buildings and people to be exposed to radioactive material.  The main purpose of a "dirty bomb" is to frighten people and make buildings or land unusable for a long period of time.

The atomic explosions that occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were conventional nuclear weapons involving fission reation.  A dirty bomb is designed to spread radioactive material and contaminate a small area.  It does not include the fission products necessary to create a large blast like those seen in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  There has been a lot of speculation about where terrorists could get radioactive material to place in a dirty bomb.  The most harmful radioactive materials are found in nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons sites.  However, increased security at these facilities makes obtaining materials from them more difficult.  Because of the dangerous and difficult aspects of obtaining high-level radioactive materials from a nuclear facility, there is a greater chance that the radioactive materials used in a dirty bomb would come from low-level radioactive sources.  Low-level radioactive sources are found in hospitals, on construction sites, and at food irradiation plants.  The sources in these areas are used to diagnose and treat illnesses, sterilize equipment, inspect welding seams, and irradiate food to kill harmful microbes.  If low-level ratioactive sources were to be used, the primary danger from a dirty bomb would be the blast itself.  Gauging how much rediation might be present is difficult when the source of the radiation is unknown.  however, at the levels created by most probable sources, not enough radiation would be present in a dirty bomb to cause severe illness from exposure to radiation.

Nuclear Terrorism - Nuclear terrorism includes the use of either improvised or manufactured nuclear devices or weapons.  A study prepared for Nuclear Control Institute by five former U.S. nuclear weapons designers concluded that a sophisticated terrorist group would be capable of designing and building a workable nuclear bomb from stolen plutonium or highly enriched uranium, with potential yields in the kiloton range.  This risk must be taken seriously, particularly in light of documented attempts by al Qaeda to acquire nuclear material and nuclear-weapon design information.  Despite claims to the contrary from plutonium-fuel advocates in the nuclear power industry, effective and devastating weapons could be nmade using "reactor-grade" plutonium, hundreds of tons of which are processed, stored and circulated around the world in civilian nuclear commerce.

Explosives - Terrorists may employ a broad range of improvised and manufactured explosive devices.  Explosives are considereda "Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD)." An explosion is an extremely rapid release of energy in the from of light, heat, sound, and a shock wave.  The shock wave consists of highly compressed air that wave-reflects off the ground surface to produce a hemisphrical propagation of the wave that travels outward from the source at supersonic velocities.  As the shock wave expands the incident or over-pressure decrease.  When it encounters a surface that is inline-of-sight of the explosion, the wave is reflected, resulting in a tremendous amplification of pressure.  Unlike acoustical waves, which reflect with an amplification factor of two,  shock waves can reflect with an amplication factor of up to thirteen, due to the supersonic velocity of the shock wave at impact.  The magnitude of the reflection factor is a function of the proximity of the explosion and the angle of incidence of the shock wave on the surface.  The response demands gernerated by some explosives incidents (pipe bomb, package bomb, letter bomb) in the pre-and post-blast stages are not new to emergency responders.  High-yield explosive devices may lead to large-scale structural collapse, utility failure, transportation impacts, and mass casualties.  The terrorist intentions are intended to injure citizens and/or first responders by the timeliness of the detonation.  This can be through a secondary explosive divice or through an explosive device intended to disseminate chemical, biological, or radio-logical agents/materials.  This significantly increases response demands to include those additional hazards.

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