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Experts Assess Likelihood of Nuclear, Biological Attacks


June 26, 2005

In the next 10 years, the world faces a 29 percent chance there will be a nuclear attack, in part because four new nations will be added to the nuclear weapons club, according to a survey compiled by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard G. Lugar.

The survey of arms control and national security experts also indicated there is a 30 percent chance there will be a major chemical or biological attack, Lugar said in a prepared statement released June 24.

"The prospects of a dirty bomb attack were pegged at 40 percent," he said. A dirty bomb is a high explosive that has been contaminated with radioactive materials.

The study surveyed 85 senior international scholars, policy-makers, diplomats, and technicians on the spread of dangerous weapons and international responses to the growing problem.

"The Lugar survey found that 79 percent believed that their own country was not spending enough money on nonproliferation objectives," he said. "None of the experts surveyed believed that their country was spending too much on these goals."

A majority of the experts surveyed suggest that terrorists, rather than a government, are more likely to launch a nuclear attack, and that they are most likely to obtain a nuclear weapon or nuclear materials through the black market, Lugar said.

"Respondents also emphasized the need to end the nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran," Lugar said.

And the survey found that experts believe the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons is in the greatest need of attention, along with the risk posed by former weapons scientists tempted to sell their know-how to terrorists or rogue states.

Lugar said the survey was conducted in late 2004 and early this year to help define the parameters of the proliferation risks faced by the international community.

"I am hopeful that this study will contribute to the discussion inside and outside of governments about how we can strengthen non-proliferation efforts, improve safeguards around existing weapons and materials, bolster intelligence gathering and interdiction capabilities, and expand international cooperation in dealing with a threat that should deeply concern all governments and peoples," Lugar said.

"The bottom line is this: for the foreseeable future, the United States and other nations will face an existential threat from the intersection of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction."


On the Web:

pdfThe Lugar Survey on Proliferation Threats and Responses

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