The possibility that criminals or political extremists might sabotage nuclear facilities, fabricate a nuclear explosive device, or disperse radioactive material has been the subject of numerous studies. What conclusions can we draw? (1) It can be done. (2) There are political extremists and criminal groups today that possess or could acquire the necessary resources. (3) The historical record provides no evidence that such groups have attempted to acquire nuclear material for illicit use; there have been low-level incidents involving nuclear facilities or material. (4) There is no inexorable progression from the currently identified spectrum of potential nuclear terrorists to actual nuclear terrorists, or from the nuclear incidents that have occurred to actions of greater consequence. (5) Whether any of the current potential nuclear terrorists will actually go nuclear remains an unanswerable question. (6) There may appear new kinds of adversaries more likely to take nuclear action. (7) The level and nature of the threat may change.
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.
This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit www.rand.org/pubs/permissions.
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.