Cover of Death Dust by William C. Potter, Sarah Bidgood, Samuel Meyer, and Hanna Notte
Death Dust
The Rise, Decline, and Future of Radiological Weapons Programs
William C. Potter, Sarah Bidgood, Samuel Meyer, and Hanna Notte

December 2023
232 pages.
from $26.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503636668
Paperback ISBN: 9781503637658



The postwar period saw increased interest in the idea of relatively easy-to-manufacture but devastatingly lethal radiological munitions whose use would not discriminate between civilian and military targets. Death Dust explores the largely unknown history of the development of radiological weapons (RW)—weapons designed to disperse radioactive material without a nuclear detonation—through a series of comparative case studies across the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, Iraq, and Egypt. The authors illuminate the historical drivers of and impediments to radiological weapons innovation. They also examine how new, dire geopolitical events—such as the war in Ukraine—could encourage other states to pursue RW and analyze the impact of the spread of such weapons on nuclear deterrence and the nonproliferation regime. Death Dust presents practical, necessary steps to reduce the likelihood of a resurgence of interest in and pursuit of radiological weapons by state actors.

About the authors

William C. Potter is Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies and Founding Director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS).

Sarah Bidgood is Director of the Eurasia Nonproliferation Program at CNS.

Samuel Meyer is an Analyst at the Office of Radiological Security, U.S. Department of Energy.

Hanna Notte is a Senior Research Associate with the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation.