Nuclear Terrorism

In the post-Soviet era, as the number of nuclear states has increased and governmental control over nuclear stockpiles has weakened, the threat of nuclear terrorism has become a growing concern of the global community. By examining whether terrorists will "go nuclear," RAND's analyses have helped policymakers understand the probable risk and potential sources of nuclear terrorism, evaluate emerging threats to the global security environment, and develop counterterrorism strategies.

  • A simple radiation warning design on a concrete wall

    Commentary

    Is Nuclear Terrorism Distracting Attention from More Realistic Threats?

    A nuclear terrorist attack is currently not a realistic threat. It would require an unprecedented level of sophistication from terrorists. The majority of terrorist attacks are conducted with conventional explosives.

    Jul 27, 2018

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Nuclear Terrorism, the Last 40 Years: What Has and Has Not Happened

    After the Cold War and nearly 70 years of waging war against communism, the United States and its key allies have adopted the war against terror as their new organizing principal.

    Oct 28, 2016

  • German police found traces of radiation in Hamburg locations linked to a Russian businessman who had met the murdered ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko on the day he fell ill

    Commentary

    Russia on the Horns of a Nuclear Dilemma

    While the murder of Alexander Litvinenko is a human tragedy, broader concerns about the lowering of WMD norms and violations of international law should be addressed. The use of radioactive matter to kill him represents a serious breach of international agreements.

    Feb 19, 2016

  • Marina Litvinenko, widow of murdered ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, poses with a copy of The Litvinenko Inquiry Report with her son Anatoly during a news conference in London, Britain, January 21, 2016

    Commentary

    Troubling Truth Beneath Litvinenko Headlines

    Slipping radioactive material into a spy's tea in the middle of London may not sound like a CBRN attack, but it is, as the Owen report has confirmed. Hopefully, the report's release will help focus global attention on the growing threat posed by these devastating weapons.

    Jan 21, 2016

  • Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili at a May 2013 news conference

    Report

    Iran After the Bomb: How Would a Nuclear-Armed Tehran Behave?

    Iran may feel more confident and gain a sense of prestige from a nuclear capability, but other factors, such as the regional geopolitical environment and Iran’s political, military, and economic capabilities, will have a greater bearing on Iranian calculations.

    May 17, 2013

  • An army truck MZKT 79221 under missile Topol-M

    Commentary

    When Armies Divide: Securing Nuclear Arsenals During Internal Upheavals

    With an army divided, any type of foreign intervention would be complex and fraught with extraordinary risk—success would be a long shot. But the loss of a nuclear weapon or fissile material would change the world.

    Apr 12, 2013

  • Cover of Brian Michael Jenkins' "When Armies Divide" book

    Blog

    A New Book from Brian Michael Jenkins: When Armies Divide

    In 1961, four French generals launched a coup against the government of President Charles de Gaulle and conceivably might have ended up with a nuclear device. In When Armies Divide, RAND's Brian Michael Jenkins uses this unusual chapter in history to discuss what can happen when nuclear states are threatened by revolts, coups, and civil wars.

    Apr 11, 2013

  • Commercial Book

    Commercial Book

    When Armies Divide: The Security of Nuclear Arsenals During Revolts, Coups, and Civil Wars

    This book examines the security of nuclear arsenals during revolts, coups, and civil wars.

    Apr 11, 2013

  • A world map outline with glowing nuclear warning symbols over it

    Blog

    A Conversation with Philip Taubman, Author of The Partnership

    Philip Taubman discussed his book, The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb, at a RAND event on June 1, 2012. The book offers a clear analysis of the danger of nuclear terrorism and how it can be prevented.

    Jun 8, 2012

  • Events @ RAND Audio Podcast

    Multimedia

    A Conversation with Philip Taubman

    On June 1, 2012, RAND hosted a conversation with Philip Taubman on his book, The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb. Taubman illuminates our vulnerability in the face of the pressing terrorist threat—and the unlikely efforts of five key Cold War players to eliminate the nuclear arsenal they helped create.

    Jun 1, 2012

  • News Release

    News Release

    Book by Noted Expert Proposes a Renaissance of Thought on Nuclear Deterrence for Today's Strategic Environment

    A new book by the late French scholar Thérèse Delpech provides a critical review and update of nuclear deterrence theory, focusing a critical eye on nuclear issues during the Cold War, examining the lessons of past nuclear crises, and outlining ways in which these lessons apply to major nuclear powers and nuclear pretenders today.

    Apr 17, 2012

  • Report

    Report

    Book by Noted Expert Proposes a Renaissance of Thought on Nuclear Deterrence for Today's Strategic Environment

    A new book by the late French scholar Thérèse Delpech provides a critical review and update of nuclear deterrence theory, focusing a critical eye on nuclear issues during the Cold War, examining the lessons of past nuclear crises, and outlining ways in which these lessons apply to major nuclear powers and nuclear pretenders today.

    Mar 27, 2012

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    How Russia Can and Can't Help Obama

    In hindsight, KGB analysts and Soviet officials were extraordinarily prescient about the perils of Islamist terrorism and the fallout from the Afghan jihad. But could Russia, for all its faults and foibles, be a more valuable counterterrorism partner today, asks Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Aug 26, 2009

  • Report

    Report

    Public Health Preparedness for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Weapons

    Presents a broad overview of the U.S. public health response system, recent efforts to improve preparedness, challenges faced, and options for moving forward.

    Jan 1, 2009

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    Georgia Dispute Derails Bid to Stop Nuke Terrorism

    Given American concerns about nuclear proliferation and the possibility of nuclear terrorism, tying U.S.-Russian cooperation in the nuclear domain with the current Russia-Georgia quarrel may amount to shooting ourselves in the foot in a misguided attempt to punish Russia, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Oct 6, 2008

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?

    America is uniquely susceptible to nuclear terror. Beneath our characteristic national optimism lie seams of anxiety, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Sep 12, 2008

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    A Nuclear 9/11?

    Will terrorists go nuclear? It is a question that worried public officials and frightened citizens have been asking for decades. It is no less of a worry today, as we ponder the seventh anniversary of 9/11, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Sep 12, 2008

  • News Release

    News Release

    Book by Brian Michael Jenkins Explores Nuclear Terrorism; Allows Readers to Confront Crisis as a President Might

    In a new book, "Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?," leading terrorism expert Brian Michael Jenkins explores both the risks and history of nuclear terrorism, and warns that terrorists may not even need to acquire such weapons to order to perpetrate "nuclear terror."

    Sep 10, 2008

  • Multimedia

    Multimedia

    Brian Michael Jenkins Discusses "Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?"

    Offering insights into vital questions of national security, presidential decisionmaking, and terrorist motives, world-renowned terrorism expert Brian Michael Jenkins examines how terrorists think about nuclear weapons and nuclear terror.

    Aug 6, 2008

  • Commercial Book

    Commercial Book

    Terrorism Expert Examines Intelligence on Al Qaida in "Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?"

    According to a British intelligence report leaked to the press in 2007, al Qaida operatives are planning a large-scale attack "on par with Hiroshima and Nagasaki." But just how likely is such an attack?

    Aug 2, 2008