Potential for Nuclear Attack Using Tankers

Tuesday, December 28, 2004
The Congressional Research Service issued a Report on the potential for a terrorist nuclear attack using oil tankers. The report discusses the possibility of terrorists planting (perhaps surreptitiously or perhaps while the tanker is at sea) a simple nuclear device – possibly six feet long, six inches in diameter, and weighing 1,000 pounds – in a cargo tank of an oil tanker bound for a U.S. port. The report then discusses how difficult it would be for U.S. officials to detect the presence of the weapon. What the report does not discuss at any length is how this device would actually be gotten through the small access hole of the cargo tank of an oil tanker and then placed securely inside the cargo tank. Not trying to burst the bubbles of the hard-working analysts at CRS, they might want to devote their attention to the potential for such an attack using a ship providing easier access to cargo spaces. But while hypothesizing with oil tankers is unrealistic, it is sexier. CRS Report RS21997 (HK Law).

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