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Center for Public Health Preparedness

Nuclear Terrorism: Pathways and Prevention

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The possibility that terrorists might acquire and use nuclear weapons is an urgent and potentially catastrophic challenge to global security. Nuclear weapons, the most powerful weapons of mass destruction (WMD), use the energy produced by reactions within and between atomic nuclei to generate tremendous explosive force, heat, radiation, and other harmful effects.

You will learn about the threat of terrorism using nuclear explosives, and options for meeting this threat, in this self-directed course developed by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies

This course provides relatively technical information about nuclear energy and nuclear terrorism, but it does not include detailed information about implications for public health professionals and hospital clinicians. For more information on public health and healthcare implications, see relevant modules of these UAlbany online courses: “Terrorism, Preparedness, and Public Health” and “Emergency Preparedness Training for Hospital Clinicians.”


The primary audience is bioterrorism coordinators, public health professionals, other clinical professionals, and other emergency responders. We recommend taking this course along with the relevant modules of one of these UAlbany online courses: “Terrorism, Preparedness, and Public Health” and “Emergency Preparedness Training for Hospital Clinicians.” This will provide a more complete picture of the implications for public health and healthcare. This course might also be useful for anyone interested in an overview of nuclear weapons and materials and their potential use by terrorists.


After completing this course, the learner will be able to:

  • Describe the two processes that create nuclear reactions
  • Describe the three types of nuclear weapons
  • Name at least two ways terrorists could acquire or build nuclear weapons
  • Describe at least two reasons why terrorists would use nuclear weapons
  • Name at least two ways the world is responding to the threat of nuclear terrorism


This flyer can be used to publicize the course in your organization. PDF Word


Originally launched April, 2007. Updated July, 2012.

Technical Requirements

This course is built to XHTML 1.1 specifications. A modern web browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox is required to view the pages.


Estimated time for all modules is 3 hours.


Free and open to the public.


Content for this course was provided by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, an affiliate of Middlebury College. Funding was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Centers for Public Health Preparedness program and by the Nuclear Threat Initiative.


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