Radiation terrorism: What society needs from the radiobiology-radiation protection and radiation oncology communities

C. Norman Coleman, Gerald W. Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Society's and individuals' concerns about the adverse effects from radiation are logically amplified many times when radiological terrorism is considered. The spectrum of events include industrial sabotage, the use of an explosive or non-explosive radiological dispersal device, the placement of a radiological exposure device in a public facility and the use of an improvised nuclear device. The consequences of an event relate to the physical and medical damage of the event itself, the financial impact, and the acute and long-term medical consequences, including fear of radiation-induced cancer. The magnitude of a state-sponsored nuclear event is so great that limited detailed response planning had been done in the past, as compared to the work now ongoing. Planning is done on the basis of scenario modelling. Medical response planning includes medical triage, distribution of victims to care by experienced physicians, developing medical countermeasures to mitigate or treat radiation injury, counselling and appropriately following exposed or potentially exposed people, and helping the local community develop confidence in their own response plan. Optimal response must be based on the best available science. This requires scientists who can define, prioritise and address the gaps in knowledge with the range of expertise from basic physics to biology to translational research to systems expertise to response planning to healthcare policy to communications. Not only are there unique needs and career opportunities, but there is also the opportunity for individuals to serve their communities and country with education regarding radiation effects and by formulating scientifically based government policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)A159-A169
JournalJournal of Radiological Protection
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Radiation terrorism: What society needs from the radiobiology-radiation protection and radiation oncology communities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this