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US Army Handbook on the Medical Management Of Radiological Casualties, First Edition: The US Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute's standard textbook for training military and other physicians on how to treat victims of exposure to ionizing radiation.

Osama bin Laden may have acquired enough radioactive material illegally from sources in Pakistan to build and detonate a "dirty bomb" - not a nuclear explosive, but a radiological weapon using a chemical explosive jacketed with intensely radioactive material (such as plutonium, cesium, or strontium) to spread radiation and hurt or kill people. According to CNN (see the link below) this story broke on the front page of the London Times.
CNN's coverage of this story, with info about two of the Pakistani nuclear scientists interrogated in connection with the alleged transfer of special nuclear material from Pakistan to Osama bin Laden

The successful use of such a weapon would result in an incident essentially similar to Chernobyl, but hopefully smaller in severity and geographic scope (since the massive heat energy of a melted-down nuclear reactor would not be available to help vaporize and disperse the radioactivity into the air over a period of weeks). The area contaminated could range from a small town or village to much of Washington, DC or New York, or even an area ranging over several of the smaller United States.

However, the resulting contamination could be contained and/or its severity reduced and victims decontaminated in time to avoid death or serious illness if authorities were to take proper steps - steps which have been well-known and prepared for by the US Government since the mid-1950s. This would be MUCH less serious than an actual nuclear detonation, or even the events of September 11th 2001, IF the people involved were properly decontaminated after exposure. Otherwise, hundreds of thousands of people could die.

My opinion is that it's time to start taking civil defense against nuclear and radiological weapons seriously again. Why?

Our chances of being hit by at least ONE nuclear weapon have actually INCREASED since the "death" of Communism and the "end of the Cold War" - consider how many politically unstable countries, and since the breakup of the Soviet Union even terrorist and criminal organizations, could now have nuclear weapons.

Consider that every nation which has nuclear weapons succeeded in creating a nuclear explosion on the first try - this includes Israel, South Africa, China, India and Pakistan - not to be chauvinistic, but how hard could it be?

Consider that forty-foot shipping containers will suffice as delivery systems into even the most strongly defended American cities... we can't check them all, folks.

And consider the trouble New York had coping with the Twin Towers crash - just imagine for a heartbeat the chaos if that tragedy had been compounded by nuclear radiation, millions of dead and dying from being burned or crushed by an explosion, or from the prompt radiation emitted by a nuclear weapon hoisted from an anonymous freighter onto the docks of the city.

Please strongly consider voicing your opinion on this topic to your representatives and Senators in Congress. Thanks.