Assessment of probable scenarios of radiological emergency and their consequences

Yehoshua Socol, Yuriy Gofman, Moshe Yanovskiy, Binyamin Brosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose: Despite the vast amount of literature on radiological emergencies, to the best of our knowledge there is no systematic review of probable scenarios and their consequences. This work aimed for compiling such review. Materials and methods: The authors comprised a Red Team–that is, simulated best efforts to inflict maximal damage to the society by various means of radiological attacks. Nuclear warfare including improvised nuclear devices is beyond the scope of this work. Results: The direct radiogenic health consequences of any conceivable radiological accident, natural or man-made, are much less dangerous than those which are usually perceived. In each scenario, direct health effects are only a small part of the damage caused by fear and over-reaction; the damage is somewhat independent of the small health effect predicted for most of the scenarios. The reason is that nuclear radiation has become perceptually connected with nuclear apocalypses. This connection has caused the emotional description of radiological emergencies to frequently substitute quantitative considerations. For example, Chernobyl and Fukushima became major humanitarian disasters not because of the radiation itself but because of the over-reaction of both the authorities and the public, that led to the unjustified relocation of hundreds of thousands of people. In Fukushima, the evacuation was not justified at all and in Chernobyl the evacuated zone should have been re-populated after 1 month. Conclusions: It is vital to educate decision makers, first responders and the public about the factual extent of possible radiological consequences, as well as about the very real danger of over-reaction. Since the extent of the countermeasures deployed is unavoidably connected, in the eye of the public, with the extent of the danger, we suggest launching educational campaigns that explain the factual extent of the radiation risk, followed by easing regulations and narrowing safety margins. Such measures will probably be the most efficient method of countering radiological terrorism: by depriving any adversary of the most important ability which is to cause an over-reaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1390-1399
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Dirty bomb
  • disaster management
  • health effects
  • radiation protection
  • red team


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