Dirty Bombs Made Simple

Demonstrators protest against the Iranian government outside the Iranian Embassy in Stockholm, Tuesday, June 23, 2009. AP Photo/Christine Olsson, Scanpix

With terrorists interested in obtaining nuclear material to build a dirty bomb, a new report shows how dangerously simple it could really be, reports CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

According to the Government Accountability Office, their undercover agents easily got a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to legally buy radioactive materials.

They did it in just 28 days by creating a dummy corporation that never had any offices or employees. Nobody from the NRC even checked to see if the company really existed, adds Attkisson.

What's more, they used off-the-shelf computer software anyone can purchase and easily counterfeited the license to remove limits on how much material they could buy. Then they bought enough to build a "moderately sized dirty bomb, all without leaving their desks." And they say they could have gotten substantially more.

The NRC acknowledges the license was bought and forged but tells CBS News that the dirty bomb scenario was not really feasible because it would have cost millions to actually build. And the bomb would have contained the radiation equivalent to a CAT scan to the chest and stomach.

The problem is determined and well-funded terrorists would not have stopped when the government investigators did. The NRC is concerned enough that it has already completed a serious revision of procedure.

From now on, anyone applying for a license to buy nuclear material will get a face to face meeting with regulators to make sure they are who they say they are.
  • Alfonso Serrano

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