Nuclear technologies, fissile materials, and radioactive sources remain at risk to be targeted by criminals and terrorists. The prospect of nuclear crime and terrorism is not merely a theoretical one, as

  • radioactive materials have been turned into murder weapons repeatedly;
  • nuclear power plants have been assaulted or credibly threatened (dozens of serious incidents in the past forty years are documented); and
  • two well-funded terrorist organizations, al-Qaeda and Aum Shinrikyo, have seriously pursued ingredients of nuclear bombs (the former presumably even experimented with non-nuclear components for such a device).

The good news is that terrorists have not yet been successful in mounting a large-scale radiological or a nuclear attack. To keep it that way, national governments and the international community need to strengthen the instruments of nuclear security - most urgently those to protect weapons-usable fissile materials from theft and nuclear facilities from attack or sabotage.   

The articles on this website introduce some of the key aspects of nuclear security and nuclear terrorism prevention. They explain what needs to be done to keep highly enriched uranium and plutonium, the main ingredients of nuclear weapons, out of the hands of terrorists. They discuss the terrorist threat to nuclear facilities, including some of the lessons to be learned from the Fukushima disaster for both safety and security of nuclear power plants. And they deal with the issue of “dirty bombs” and how to protect the radioactive sources so widely used in medicine and industry.

The collection includes links to open-access papers and power-point-presentations written by my great colleagues, other trusted experts, and myself. I hope that it will be useful as a backgrounder for journalists and for everybody else who is interested in learning about these important matters.

Comments and questions are welcome. Please contact me at Tom.Bielefeld[at]

    Nukleare Sicherheit und Terrorismus

Bitte beachten Sie auch die deutschsprachige Version dieser Website, die zusätzliche Artikel in deutscher Sprache enthält.

Information about the Nuclear Security Summit 2016 in Washington DC

Terrorism and Nuclear Weapons

Terrorism, Radioactive Materials, and "Dirty Bombs"

Terrorism and Nuclear Power Plants


  • The Nuclear Threat Initiative. (NTI provides a wealth of nuclear security-related information, including analysis and policy documents. Home of the new country-by-country "Nuclear Security Index" and of the report series on "Securing the Bomb", which assesses the state of fissile materials security and the progress made in international cooperative threat reduction efforts.)
  • The Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
    (Articles, reports, and commentary on nuclear security and non-proliferation).
  • The International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM provides in-depth analysis on nuclear weapon and fissile material stockpiles and production as well as on initiatives for stockpile reduction.)
  • "NukeMap," by Alex Wellerstein. Educational tool, involving Google Maps(TM), to illustrate the range of nuclear weapons effects (2012).

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Image Credits for Nuclear Security and Terrorism website
Pelindaba Nuclear Research Center by NJRZA (Wikipedia).

Tom Bielefeld, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

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