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News of the Day ... In Perspective

6/5/2007

Officials quietly discussing terrorist nuclear attack

High-level government and military officials recently held a planning session entitled “The Day After” premised on the assumption that prevention of nuclear terrorism might not work and an emergency survival program was needed.

Recommendations include encouraging local governments and individuals to build bomb shelters; preventing evacuation for at least three days to avoid roadway paralysis and fallout exposure; and suspending regulations on radiation exposure to permit first-responders to do rescue work.

Participants in the joint Harvard-Stanford program called the Preventive Defense Project included retired Vice-Admiral Roger Rufe of Homeland Security and Ashton Carter, a Senior Defense Department official during the Clinton Administration.

One of the most sobering possibilities is that of long-term chaos triggered by fear of additional episodes. “If one bomb goes off, there are likely to be more to follow,” Carter said.

Some complained that even talking about planning would precipitate fear. But Michael May, former director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, defended the survival planning, saying that people needed to get used to the fact that such a crisis, while dire, could be managed—a key step in restoring calm. “You have to demystify the nuclear issue,” he said. “By talking about this, you take away the feeling of helplessness” (James Sterngold, San Francisco Chronicle 5/11/07).

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