The potential terrorist threat to commercial nuclear facilities

by Bruce Hoffman

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This paper presents testimony delivered in March 1988 to the Subcommittee on General Oversight and Investigations, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, summarizing the results of The RAND Corporation's recent research on the capabilities of terrorists who might be likely to attempt a takeover of a nuclear facility or the theft and misuse of a nuclear weapon. After reviewing terrorist trends in general and those of U.S.-based terrorist groups in particular, he determines that a threat to the U.S. nuclear domain is most likely to arise from right-wing extremists, but the chance of this occurring is small at present. Nevertheless, since terrorists would be inclined to target the least secure sites, the author recommends that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission upgrade its protection and amend its "design basis threat" to include terrorists' use of land vehicles.

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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