Nuclear terrorism- The India scenario

kaigaA report called the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project from Texax, United States of America states that combined public and private security provided at nuclear power plants is inadequate to defend against a maximum, credible, non-state adversary. Commercial U.S. nuclear reactors remain vulnerable to terrorist threats more than a decade after the 2001 attacks spurred added safety measures, according to the report put out yesterday.

It would be interesting to note in this context the scenario in India which too has been a pet target for several terrorist groups. How safe is our country from the dirty bomb? The answer is that India is a potential target and this is largely because of a very wide distribution of nuclear and radiological material which are under the radar of various terrorist groups.

According to the Indian agencies the biggest challenge before them is to protect the radioactive material. Although none of the terror groups have used this methodology as yet against India, the risk potential is still very high. Various reports and studies have shown that terrorist groups would look to lay their hands on the radioactive material and use a Radiological Dispersal Device. The RDD normally is used by detonating the radioactive material with the help of an explosive. This is known as the dirty bomb and the damage could be immense.

This has been considered to be the most lethal forms of attack that could be deployed by any terrorist group. According to the Intelligence Bureau of India, groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islami are capable of carrying out such attacks. They have a dedicated team to carry out such attacks which include both nuclear and biological terrorism. This is a high skilled job and the operatives chosen for such an operation are being directly trained by the Pakistan army, the Intelligence Bureau points out. The first thing that they are trained to do is a logistic survey in which the material and the locations are identified. This is then transported to a location of choice and after dismantling the source. Once the material reaches the target area, it is made into a dirty bomb. This releases a lot of radiation doses which have a long lasting effect.

An officer with the Delhi police who was part of the training camp last month to deal with such threats told that it is necessary that such programmes are conducted in all states. The training programme included dealing with three types of terrorism- nuclear, biological and chemical. The officer says that the biggest challenge is to identify the threat. Until some time back no police personnel could identify the problem which means even if there was a release of a radiation dose, it would not have occurred to anyone that it was nuclear terrorism. The officer further adds that the threat perception could be in any form. It could be either through planting the dirty bomb or even contaminating the water. The first thing for any officer would be to identify the threat and then carry out a rescue operation with the help of paramedics.

According to intelligence reports the form of nuclear terrorism that terror groups would deploy would be smaller in nature. This is mainly because it is not easy to carry out large chunks of material. The factor that they would thrive on the most is the panic that would be caused as a result of such an attack. This is why police personnel part of the crack team to deal with the problem have been told to be discreet about the nature of the attack since there should not be any panic waves among the people which would only double the problem.

According to reports terrorist will try target various places where there is the use of radioactive material. The ideal places for them to find materials according to security officials would be research centres, oil exploration industry, hospitals and also steel manufacturing industries. There have been incidents when such thefts have taken place in India. It occurred first in 1998 at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research in Chennai. Another incident occurred in the year 2002 at Assam. Following this was an incident of theft of such material from a steel plant in Jamsedhpur.

Indian agencies claim that they have done their best to secure radioactive material in all places and the chances of a theft are bleak. However terrorist groups according to Intelligence reports are planning on sourcing such material from other countries and secretly smuggle it into India. The potential illegal market for the supply of such material has found to be in Russia, according to IB reports. Several Pakistan groups with the help of the ISI have been sourcing this material from illegal markets and will look to smuggle it into India.

In the recent past the police have made several arrests and during the questioning of these operatives it has been revealed that they had planned on targeting nuclear facilities. Some youth had claimed that they had surveyed the Kaiga nuclear plant and had planned on carrying out explosions over there. Experts however state that an explosion at a nuclear power plant would cause a great deal of panic, but there would be no damage to the plant since there is a high level of safety attached to it. However the significance of such an attack would be immense as the security apparatus leading up to the plant would come under question.

Officials say that there is a lot that is being done in India today as the nation has woken up to this threat. There have been several inputs from Intelligence agencies in the recent past about this form of terrorism and hence it becomes extremely important to have a team to fight this problem. The National Disaster Management Authority has trained 100 personnel so far to counter this problem. A proposal has been sent to the government and while quoting the Mayapuri radiation incident of 2010, a request to train more personnel has been made.

Author: Vicky Nanjappa

just a reporter

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