Medical Radiology and Radiation Safety. 2019. Vol. 64. No. 6. P. 37–43

DOI: 10.12737/1024-6177-2019-64-6-37-43

M.I. Grachev, Yu.A. Salenko, G.P. Frolov, B.B. Moroz

On the Categorization of Radiological Terrorism Threats

A.I. Burnasyan Federal Medical Biophysical Center, Moscow, Russia.
E-mail: Этот адрес электронной почты защищен от спам-ботов. У вас должен быть включен JavaScript для просмотра.

M.I. Grachev – Leading Researcher, PhD Med.;
Yu.A. Salenko – Head of Dep., Assoc. Prof., PhD Med.;
G.P. Frolov – Senior Researcher;
B.B. Moroz – Head of Lab., Academician of RAS


Purpose: To develop approaches to categorization (ranking) radiological terrorism (RT) threats on the basis of expert assessment of the possibility (likelihood) of the implementation of certain RT scenarios and assessment of their medical and hygienic consequences.

Results: Five categories of RT threats are highlighted. The first (most hazardous) threat category includes situations related to use radioactive dispersing devices (RDD), including the “dirty bomb”. It is shown that the creation of a potential threat of radiation exposure to people at the thresholds of deterministic effects may require the activity of radionuclides in RDD in the range of several hundred TBq. The second category of threats includes scenarios of RT related to the placement of high dose rate radionuclide sources in areas of permanent location or mass gathering of people. The third category of threats includes situations when radionuclide sources maliciously place (enclose) into technological equipment and processes, which lead to radioactive contamination of the environment, industrial and socially significant facilities (water treatment plants, warehouses of food and raw materials), manufactured products. It is shown that in the case of the implementation of such RT scenarios, the dose criteria that require protective measures for the public are unlikely to be achieved. The fourth category of threats includes the physical impact on radioactive materials in the nuclear reactors, fuel element storage pools, and radioactive waste storage facilities. The fifth category of threats includes scenarios of RT related to the use of improvised nuclear devices or nuclear weapons by terrorists.

Conclusion: Threats of categories I–III, given the combination of the possibility of implementing RT scenarios and the scale of medical and hygienic consequences, are estimated as relatively high. Threats of category IV and V due to the extremely low probability of their implementation have the lowest rating, despite the great and even catastrophic nature of the consequences.

Key words: radiological terrorism, threat categorization, health impact, “dirty bomb”, radiation related injures, radioactive contamination


1. Bobrov AF, Grachev MI, Grinev MP, Frolov GP, Scheblanov VYu. The Risk of Social and Psychological Consequences of a Radiation Terrorist Act. Safety and Emergencies Problems. 2008;(2):73-82. (In Russian).
2. Grebenyuk AN, Sidorov DA. Medical, Social and Psychological Aspects of Radiological Terrorism. Medical, Biological and Socio-psychological Problems of Safety in Emergency Situations. 2012;(3):11-8. (In Russian).
3. Arrangements for Rreparedness for a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency. Safety Guide No. GS-G-2.1. Vienna: IAEA; 2007. 145 p.
4. Preparedness and Response for a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency. General Safety Requirements No. GSR Part 7. Vienna: IAEA; 2015. 102 p.
5. Method for Developing Arrangements for Response to a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency (Updating IAEA-TECDOC-953). Vienna: IAEA; 2003. 269 p.
6. Grachev MI, Il’yin LA, Kvacheva YuE, Kriminsky AA, Salenko YuA, Samoilov AS, et al. Medical Aspects of Countering Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism. Moscow: A.I. Burnasyan Federal Medical Biophysical Center; 2018. 392 p. (In Russian).
7. Protecting People Against Radiation Exposure in the Event of a Radiological Attack. ICRP Publication 96. Elsevier Ltd; 2005. 110 p.
8. Inventory of Accidents and Losses at Sea Involving Radioactive Material. IAEA-TECDOC-1242. Vienna: IAEA; 2001. 69 p.
9. INES. The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale User’s Manual. 2008 Edition. Vienna: IAEA; 2013. 206 p. 
10. Yatsenko VN, Fomichev SA, Grachev MI, et al. Experience in Eliminating the Consequences of a 137Cs Radionuclide Source Incident at the Bratsk Fiberboard Plant. Disaster Medicine. 1992;(1):55-60. (In Russian).
11. The Radiological Accident in Goiania. Vienna: IAEA; 1988. 149 p.
12. The Radiological Accident in Lilo. Vienna: IAEA; 2000. 103 p.
13. Il’yin LA, Soloviev VYu. Immediate Medical Consequences of Radiation Incidents on the Territory of the Former USSR. Medical Radiology and Radiation Safety. 2004;49 (6):37-48. (In Russian).
14. Major Radiation Accidents: Consequences and Protective Measures. Il’yin LA, Gubanov VA, eds. Moscow: IzdAT; 2001. 752 p. (In Russian).
15. Lessons Learned from the Response to Radiation Emergencies (1945–2010). Vienna: IAEA; 2012. 133 p.
16. Il’yin LA. Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism – Medical-biological and Hygienic Problems. Hygiene and Sanitation. 2017;96(9):809-12. (In Russian).
17. Ortiz P, Wheatley J, Oresegun M, Friedrich V. Lost and Found Dangers. Orphan Radiation Sources Raise Global Concerns. IAEA Bulletin. 1999;41(3):18-21.
18. Dangerous Quantities of Radioactive Material (D-values). Vienna: IAEA; 2006. 145 p.
19. Nadejina NM, Barabanova AV, Galstyan IA. The Problem of the Lost Radiation Sources – the Difficulties of Diagnosis and Treatment of Exposed Persons. Medical Radiology and Radiation Safety. 2005;50(4):15-21. (In Russian).
20. Bushmanov AYu, Baranov AE, Nadejina NM. Three Cases of Acute Human Radiation Damage from Acute External Gamma Radiation. Bulletin of Siberian Medicine. 2005;4(2):133-41. (In Russian).
21. Technical Attachment Status of Measurements of Ru-106 in Europe. Vienna: IAEA; 2017. 11 p.
22. Vnukov VS. Ensuring Nuclear Safety at Plants Producing Nuclear Fuel for NPP: a Reference Manual. Moscow: FORUM; 2010. 208 p. (In Russian).
23. Wirz C, Egger E. Use of Nuclear and Radiological Weapons by Terrorists? International Review of the Red Cross. 2005;87(859):121-38.
24. Reshmi Kazi. Nuclear Terrorism: The New Terror of the 21st Century. IDSA Monograph Series. № 27. New Delhi: IDSA; 2013. 149 p.
25. Vasilenko IYa, Vasilenko OI. Biomedical Aspects of Radiation Terrorism. Atomic Energy Bulletin. 2003;(5):48-52. (In Russian).
26. Uyba VV, Kotenko KV, Il’yin LA, Kvacheva YuE, Abramov YuV, Galstyan IA, et al. Polonium-210 Version of Arafat’s Death: the Results of Russian Investigation. Medical Radiology and Radiation Safety. 2015;60(3):41-9. (In Russian).

For citation: Grachev MI, Salenko YuA, Frolov GP, Moroz BB. On the Categorization of Radiological Terrorism Threats. Medical Radiology and Radiation Safety. 2019;64(6):37–43. (In Russian).

DOI: 10.12737/1024-6177-2019-64-6-37-43

PDF (RUS) Full-text article (in Russian)