Since 11 September 2001, the concept of nuclear terrorism no longer seems far-fetched. Scenarios such as a suicide attack on a nuclear power plant or a ‘dirty bomb’ detonated in an urban area have been played out in the media, by government officials and experts—sometimes in an alarmist fashion and often generating more questions than answers. Are dirty bombs nuclear weapons? Are terrorists capable of building a nuclear weapon? Could they buy one? There seems to be widespread uncertainty concerning the capabilities of terrorists and the threat posed by them. In this issue of Disarmament Forum, experts examine terrorist capabilities and means, distinguish hype from real concerns, and propose arms control responses.

Arms control can make vital contributions to reducing the opportunities for nuclear terrorism. Initiatives ranging from verification and transparency measures to new treaties could promote more secure materials and facilities, as well as increased confidence in that protection. Greater awareness of the possibility of terrorists developing or using nuclear weapons or radiological devices has resulted in renewed attention on activities to develop and strengthen countermeasures to protect nuclear weapons, materials and facilities.

Citation: Kerstin Vignard (ed.) (2003). "Disarmament Forum: Nuclear Terrorism", UNIDIR, Geneva.

Disponible aussi en français.


  • Editor’s note, Kerstin Vignard
  • Special Comment: Nuclear terrorism and nuclear arms control, Rüdiger Lüdeking
  • Nuclear terrorism: risk analysis after 11 September 2001, Annette Schaper
  • The contribution of arms control to fighting nuclear terrorism, Li Bin & Liu Zhiwei
  • Commercial radioactive sources: surveying the security risks, Charles D. Ferguson, Tahseen Kazi & Judith Perera
  • The implications of 11 September for the nuclear industry, John H. Large
  • FM(C)T benefits and burdens: today’s needs, tomorrow’s opportunities, Thomas E. Shea
  • Some reflections on transparency in the contemporary security environment, William Walker
  • Select Online Resources Concerning Nuclear Terrorism, compiled by Rachel Williams
  • Observations and lessons from the work of the Panel of Governmental Experts on Missiles, Ambassador Lee Ho Jin