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Abstract

Testimony given before the California State Assembly Committee on Energy and Diminishing Materials regarding the possibility that terrorists might steal fissionable material or nuclear weapons, attack nuclear facilities, or create nuclear hoaxes. In the author's view, the primary attraction of nuclear material for terrorists is not causing mass casualties, but the fact that terrorist action associated with the word “nuclear” attracts attention and generates fear. Mass casualties do not serve the terrorists' goals and could alienate their constituents. The same constraints may not apply to nihilistic groups or lunatics; however, those most willing to cause widespread death may be the least able to do so. As the nuclear industry expands during the next few years, there may be a growing number of hoaxes and minor acts of sabotage, simply because the number of nuclear facilities has increased; however, the inconvenience and political repercussions these incidents produce probably will exceed the actual danger to public safety.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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