radiation weapon or radiological weapon, a bomb or warhead that uses conventional chemical explosives to disperse radioactive material, sometimes called a "dirty bomb." Designed to produce radiation sickness in a military force or a civilian population instead of destroy a target, radiation weapons typically consist of a highly radioactive material encased in lead and surrounded by a high explosive. During the 1980s, Iraq developed and tested a radiation weapon that was intended to produce health effects that would be difficult to explain, but decided to abandoned the project because a radiation level low enough to escape detection was also insufficient to cause significant medical problems in the weeks following an attack. See also nuclear weapons.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.