By Rob Edwards, Environment Editor; November
Scotland must prepare for absolute
terror Comment Read Comments (63) A NUCLEAR attack by
terrorists causing widespread panic, chaos and death is
inevitable and will happen soon, a senior Scottish
police officer has warned.
Ian Dickinson, who leads the police response to
chemical, biological and nuclear threats in Scotland,
has painted the bleakest picture yet of the dangers the
world now faces.
Efforts to prevent terrorist groups from obtaining
materials that could be made into radioactive dirty
bombs - or even crude nuclear explosives - are bound to
fail, he said. And the result will be horror on an
advertisement"These materials are undoubtedly out
there, and undoubtedly will end up in terrorists'
hands, and undoubtedly will be used by terrorists some
time soon," he declared. "We must plan for failure and
prepare for absolute terror."
Dickinson is assistant chief constable with Lothian and
Borders Police, and has responsibility through the
Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland for
protecting Scotland from chemical and nuclear attacks.
He has been closely involved in co-ordinating the
country's counter-terrorism response.
He said: "An incident will continue for days and all
the public will see is people dying without reason.
What will we do when our children come home from school
with blisters on their skin and their parents don't
know what to do?
"What happens if 10 deaths, 50 deaths, 100 deaths start
occurring in an unconnected and random way all over the
country? The public will be rightly and understandably
Casualties caused by radiation, which most people don't
understand, would trigger widespread "panic and fear",
said Dickinson. And the response of the emergency
services "would be chaotic" because of a shortage of
The police capability for dealing with the chemical,
biological, radiological and nuclear threat - known as
CBRN - needs to be increased, he argued. "I haven't got
as many officers with protective equipment as I would
like," he added. "We must prepare for the worst."
Dickinson delivered his dire warnings to an
international conference in Edinburgh last week. More
than 300 experts from 70 countries were taking part in
a high-level meeting organised by the UN International
Atomic Energy Agency on the risks of nuclear
The police response to a CBRN incident when it happened
would have a "profound effect on our communities which
should not be underestimated", he said. The protective
clothing that officers would have to wear would look
As Dickinson made the point in his speech on Wednesday,
one of his fellow police officers appeared dramatically
on the stage dressed head to toe in a regulation black
protection suit. With his face completely obscured by a
gas mask, the officer then walked slowly through the
delegates seated in the Edinburgh International
Decontamination after a radiation attack would be an
"enormous cost", Dickinson contended. It would far
exceed the multi-million pound bill for cleaning up the
50 premises contaminated with polonium-210 after the
poisoning of the former KGB agent, Alexander
Litvinenko, in London last year.
There would also be a huge drain on resources from
having to reassure many people who were unharmed but
worried. The additional monitoring and clean-up work
would be "a major problem", he said.
Worldwide efforts to stem the spread of radioactive
materials by the governments represented at the
conference were vital, Dickinson concluded. "But the
sad fact is that your work will fail."
Dickinson's nightmare analysis was backed up by Dr
Frank Barnaby, a nuclear consultant who used to work at
the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment in
Berkshire. "The amazing thing is that this hasn't
happened already," he told the Sunday Herald.
"We should expect it any minute. It's an obvious thing
for a terrorist to do. A primitive nuclear explosion
would simply eliminate the centre of a city like
Glasgow or Edinburgh."
The Edinburgh conference heard a series of other
warnings about the risks of radioactive materials being
stolen and used to cause devastation.
"As the terrorists look for the next spectacular
attack, we know that al-Qaeda in Iraq is calling on
nuclear scientists to join in the jihad," said William
Nye, director of counter-terrorism and intelligence at
the Home Office in London.
Richard Hoskins, from the International Atomic Energy
Agency's Office of Nuclear Security in Vienna, revealed
that there had been
1266 confirmed incidents in which radioactive materials
had been stolen or lost around the world since
Most involved radiation sources that could be made into
dirty bombs, although in 18 instances small amounts of
bombs-grade uranium or plutonium had been seized.