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Nuclear Safeguards Education Portal
  

Potential Adversary Groups

When considering adversarial threats to a security system, there are numerous categories of adversary groups (e.g. vandals, psychotics, etc) to consider.  In the case of a nuclear security system, three potential adversary groups are of primary concern:

Criminals

 A Slovakian police handout photo shows containers of radioactive material confiscated after three suspects' arrests. This material was most likely stolen from a facility in Russia for the purpose of selling it on the black market. (Photo Source: Ho / AFP - Getty Images )
A Slovakian police handout photo shows containers of radioactive material confiscated after three suspects' arrests. This material was most likely stolen from a facility in Russia for the purpose of selling it on the black market. (Photo Source: Ho / AFP - Getty Images )

An individual or group that commits illegal acts for personal reasons or financial gain. Criminals acting for personal reason, tend to operate alone and have a grievance against an employer or an individual.  The theft of nuclear materials by these individuals is more a product of opportunity than anything else.  Their intent is to acquire radiological material for malicious use towards others. They will usually have established access to the facility, and they will seek to evade detection to avoid arrest.

A financially motivated criminal's objective in attacking a facility is typically theft of materials or obtaining information to be used in a sale to a third party.  These groups tend to be risk adverse due to their desire to maximize profit.  Therefore, they shy away from violence that might incur longer incarceration periods and place a high value on evading detection to avoid arrest.  These groups have a high likelihood of recruiting an insider, through bribery or coercion, to aid them.  Criminal groups tend to be small, lightly armed, modestly financed, and have considerable intelligence-gathering means (especially if aided by an  insider), but they most likely have a deficiency in technical knowledge and skill.

Protesters

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These Greenpeace protesters infiltrated the site of a nuclear power plant at Nogent-sur-Seine in France on December 5, 2011 (Photo Source: AFP)

A person or group that holds an extreme ideological view, either politically or in support of a specific issue (e.g. anti-nuclear), and engages in civil disobedience to achieve a political goal or social awareness.  They may have an objection to the destructive capabilities of nuclear weapons or a concern about the environmental impact of nuclear power.  Protesters tend to be nonviolent, and their primarily tactic is sabotage, which intends to demonstrate that a facility is unsafe or disrupt a facility's operations.  These groups tend to be large, hold little regard for detection, are uninterested in using radioactive material to malicious ends, and have little in the way of technical knowledge.

Terrorists

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Al Qaeda masterminds Ayman al-Zawahri and Osama Bin Laden in 1998. Al Qaeda is considered by many to be the group most capable of carrying out a nuclear attack.  (Photo Source: AP)

A person or group that exists on the fringe of a societal or political landscape and that engages in a dialog of violence in order to achieve political objectives.  Terrorists are ideologically motivated, and the malicious use of nuclear or radiological material is viewed to them as a means to an end.  A terrorist's goal is likely either the theft of material for the construction of a weapon or the dispersal of radiological material into a populated area.  They work in small, well-organized groups, and usually are sophisticated in their technical skill as well as intelligence-gathering techniques.  Terrorists may seek to minimize detection and use deceit to compensate for their small numbers.  However, a terrorist group is willing to employ whatever tactic or level of violence is necessary to accomplish its goal.  The extreme lethality of their intent, high degree of capability, and willingless to die make terrorist groups by far the most dangerous category of adversary.

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