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"Dirty Bomb" Strike Seen Freezing Global Trade

By Diane Barnes

Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON -- Last month's manhunt for the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect highlights the possible economic devastation that could result if authorities launch a similarly overwhelming response to a radiological "dirty bomb" strike to mitigate the threat of follow-up attacks, one issue expert said on Wednesday.

Authorities brought Boston to a standstill for much of one day -- asking residents to stay indoors -- as they searched for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the wake of a gun battle that killed his brother and second suspect, Tamerlan.

Police did not know how much more damage the alleged bomber was poised to inflict, Northeastern University political science professor Stephen Flynn said. He said a radiological attack would similarly force officials to ask, "If this container could get in, and there are others that are out there, what would we do to handle it?"

A dirty bomb would use conventional explosives to disperse radioactive materials that are used widely in industry, medicine and other sectors.

The United States is nearly certain to freeze all inbound U.S. sea cargo if such a weapon were smuggled into the country and then detonated, he asserted, adding that work-arounds exist that could enable terrorists to skirt nearly all security measures instituted since the Sept. 11 attacks. Such a freeze would "gridlock" land- and sea-based commerce around the world in two weeks, and shipping would likely require at least a month to restart, Flynn said.

He was one four participants in a Wednesday panel discussion who advise or serve on the board of directors of Decision Sciences, which is developing the Multi-Mode Passive Detection System. The technology is designed to rapidly check cargo containers for shielded and unshielded nuclear material.

The Virginia company was reportedly lobbying lawmakers as of last year not to roll back a congressionally established 2014 deadline for all U.S.-bound cargo by  to undergo scanning at foreign seaports.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is slated to examine an MMPDS demonstration unit installed at the Freeport Container Port in the Bahamas. A spokesman for the American Security Project, which organized the panel discussion, said the group has no financial ties to Decision Sciences.

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