National Security

Report: Terrorists Could Use Fake Businesses To Buy Radioactive ‘Dirty Bomb’ Materials

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Ethan Barton Managing Editor

Terrorists can buy radioactive materials for dirty bombs in the U.S. using fake businesses or stealing them from legitimate companies with little or no security, according to the investigative agency of Congress.

Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigators ordered a “significantly dangerous” amount of radiological material through a fake business with nothing more than empty office space, GAO Natural Resources and Environment Director David Trimble said in a podcast Friday.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is supposed to ensure that only legitimate businesses with secure facilities can receive such dangerous radioactive material. But GAO’s fake companies had no security and could easily have been fronts for terrorist operations. (RELATED: Nuclear Bomb Material Found In Laundry Leaving Oak Ridge)

“We’ve invested billions of dollars at the borders both in the United States and … and overseas to detect the smuggling of this radiological material to keep someone, a terrorist, from bringing in a dirty bomb to this country,” Trimble said. “Why bother smuggling it if you can just order it with a fake license or steal it from a hospital or industrial facility?”

It would be incredibly dangerous if terrorists obtained such material.

“The threat of a dirty bomb is very, very serious,” Trimble said. If the Boston Marathon bomb “had radiological material, it would have been a very, very different scene and set of consequences.”

Trimble’s team set up three fake businesses. Two were denied licenses to purchase radioactive materials, but the third successfully obtained a permit.

“Once we had the license, we kind of went to town,” Trimble said. His team secured “a commitment for an order of the dangerous quantity of radiological material,” then tampered with the paper permit to allow the fake business to purchase even more.

“When you combine those two [purchases], you’ve jumped up the sort of the threat or risk level, because you’ve got a lot of radiological material, which is considered significantly dangerous by both the NRC and the International Atomic Energy Agency,” Trimble said.

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