Terrorism that makes use of CBRNE materials (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives) poses a clear threat to public health and safety, national security and economic and political stability on a global level. Accordingly, the prevention of such incidents is of the highest priority.
The threat of CBRNE terrorism is evolving and, with it, the risk of incidents intended to maximize the number of victims on a global scale. We know that terrorist groups are working hard to acquire CBRNE materials and the expertise to use them in their operations.
Radiological and nuclear terrorism
Radiation is all around us and comes in different forms. Only rarely is it dangerous. Nuclear and other radioactive materials, or materials that produce radiation above the normal background rate, are generally well protected.
However, the possibility that terrorists or other criminals might obtain nuclear or other radioactive materials for malicious use has become a real threat to global security and has become more acute due to advances in information technology, financial globalization and the increased use of such materials for lawful purposes.
Generally, nuclear and other radioactive materials used for malicious purposes have been obtained by criminal means, for example smuggled or stolen from nuclear sites and storage facilities.
The consequences of a terrorist group developing the capacity to use nuclear or radiological materials to achieve their goals could be catastrophic.
The world’s law enforcement services must be prepared to confront the threat presented by terrorists who seek to acquire and use nuclear or radioactive materials.
Additionally, nuclear or radioactive materials are appearing with increasing frequency in organized and environmental crimes, such as illegal disposal schemes carried out for profit.
Dangerous levels of radiation could easily spread from one country to the next. As such, the threats of nuclear or radioactive terrorism affect not just individual countries but entire regions. Moreover, such an event would have ramifications for national security and economic and political stability on a global level. Accordingly, the prevention of such incidents are a high priority.
The INTERPOL strategy for facing the threat posed by nuclear or radioactive materials consists of three main pillars:
- Operational data services
- Investigative support
- Capacity building
Operational data services
Information is essential in order for INTERPOL and police services worldwide to tailor their operations to specific threats and to drive prevention programmes.
INTERPOL's Project Geiger focuses on collating and analysing information on illicit trafficking and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear or radioactive materials.
The Project Geiger database combines data from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with additional open-source reports and law enforcement data collected through INTERPOL’s channels.
The Project Geiger data is analysed and incorporated into the monthly INTERPOL CBRNE Digest which covers all aspects of CBRNE terrorism.
Should an imminent threat present itself, or should an incident develop, INTERPOL may provide operational support to its member countries through:
- Deploying an Incident Response Team (IRT) with nuclear and radioactive expertise to support law enforcement authorities in their criminal investigations;
- Conducting searches of INTERPOL's databases of nominal data, fingerprints, DNA profiles, and travel documents, upon request;
- Issuing notices, which are used to alert the international law enforcement community to wanted persons, threats to public safety, or a person's criminal activities where there is a possible threat to public safety;
- Providing strategic and tactical analytical expertise, upon request.
In support of the 2012 International Nuclear Security Summit held in Seoul, Republic of South Korea, INTERPOL initiated Operation Fail Safe, which supports the international law enforcement community in tracking the transnational movement of individuals involved in the illicit trafficking of radioactive or nuclear materials. This activity continues and was the focus of attention at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit held in the Hague, the Netherlands.
INTERPOL's prevention programmes include a planned series of training courses and table top exercises helping member country police services to develop a capacity to prevent and respond to nuclear or radioactive incidents.
Central to this initiative is the concept that no one governmental organization maintains the capability to address this problem alone. Therefore, INTERPOL champions the idea that police, public health, regulatory and policy professionals should come together to meet the threat in a prevention-orientated manner.
Nuclear or radioactive terrorism is a global threat with transnational consequences. Thus, international cooperation between nations and between international organizations is a crucial element in INTERPOL’s global strategy.
Of special note is the relationship between INTERPOL and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA works to promote safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technologies. In the area of nuclear and radioactive security, the IAEA helps countries to upgrade nuclear safety and to prepare for and respond to emergencies.
INTERPOL represents the international law enforcement community in its role as an Observer at The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT). The GICNT develops partnerships and carries out multilateral activities with the aim of strengthening global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear and radioactive terrorism.
INTERPOL is an observing international organization in the Nuclear Security Summit Process. INTERPOL was part of the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Republic of Korea and the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit, in the Hague, the Netherlands.
- International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
- The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT)
- UN Security Council Presidential Statement S/PRST/2012/14 (19 April 2012)