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Our security correspondent

Eddie Mair | 15:46 UK time, Friday, 3 August 2007

Frank Gardner will join us tonight with more on this.


  1. At 04:19 PM on 03 Aug 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    see also a very large number of science fiction texts for further exploration of this subject.

    Even a small atomic bomb in a city's water-supply, for instance, would be a real nuisance.

    I'm sometimes quite surprised by how *surprised* everyone is about ideas familiar to me for my entire lifetime.

  2. At 04:47 PM on 03 Aug 2007, Anne P. wrote:

    Chris (1) we have after all seen just that sort of effect as a result of the flooding, but in this case it was possible to restore the pumping station to working order fairly quickly. Just how would we supply water on a long term basis if the whole system over a large area were contaminated?

  3. At 05:14 PM on 03 Aug 2007, Electric Dragon wrote:

    See Schneier. ( http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/05/londons_dirty_b_1.html )

  4. At 08:15 PM on 03 Aug 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Anne P @2, the short answer is "we wouldn't". The survivors would move away and live somewhere else. Given a nuclear explosion in a water-supply, the seismic shock alone would be destructive enough to suit the most determined terrorist, even without the contaminated, superheated water blasting through every possible outlet from taps and toilets to any main in the street that ruptured under the shock. One can't just wash away residual radiation; one has to wait for it to become less lethal in its own good time.

    It's one of the nastier terrorist scenerios. I'm not going to say which book I met it in, because Ghu forbid anyone of serious ill-will came across it through my fault, and had the tech ability actually to try it. (In books, the heroes generally have better tech than the villains, and so they win; in real life, we very likely don't.) I very much hope that it isn't practicable anyhow, but my point was that such unthinkable notions have been around in sf for a long time, and in fairly well-informed sf at that -- let's not forget that at least two people who worked on the Manhattan Project also wrote sf. In the same way, the idea of using a plane full of aviation fuel to 'bomb' a tall building had been used in fiction before 2001.

    Incidentally, would someone like to have a go at defining the difference between a "dirty" bomb and a depleted-uranium-coated shell? The latter have been being used in civilian areas for some years now. The resultant dust seems to be not-very-good for the health prospects of children born in those places after that particular form of weapon has been deployed there.

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