Page Type: trope
To-Do and Metadata (?)
TropeAlso known as "Radiological Bombs", Dirty Bombs are non-nuclear devices with radiological material added to them. These bombs show up in many pieces of media involving The War on Terror and are based on a pretty simple concept: detonating explosives in order to spread radioactive materials over a large area.
The main effect of a radiological bomb is psychological, as most people are afraid or anything radiation related, though it would require thorough decontamination of the affected area, which takes time and resources. As a trope/plot device, this particular kind of hazard would be used to increase the stakes, and for the Ripped from the Headlines kind of excitement.
In Real Life radiological bombs are Awesome, but Impractical. As weapons of mass disruption, their main purpose is to scare people, as the actual process of spreading radioactive material through an area is just highly inefficient and hard to evenly spread out in any manner where the material would affect large populations in any serious manner. In fiction, however, these bombs are very powerful and intimidating, to say the least.
Subtrope of Trick Bomb. Not to be confused with either the stink bomb, which is chemical in nature but has no radioactive component, nor with the nuclear bomb, whose examples can be found in Nuke 'em, nor with salted bombs, which are atomic devices designed to spread more radiological material than usual rather than for destruction.
ExamplesAnime & Manga
- Throughout Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, Section 9 and other Japanese law enforcement agencies scramble to prevent the Individual Eleven and militant refugees from using dirty bombs as part of their terrorist agenda. One such dirty bomb was located in downtown Nagasaki, which forced the city to be evacuated under martial law. S9 learns that the bomb there is planted by the Japanese Government's Central Intelligence Service, who had their own agenda to place the blame on refugees living in Dejima.
- In Goldfinger, Auric Goldfinger's scheme is to use an explosive to irradiate the gold at Fort Knox, all to increase the value of his own personal gold stockpile. In a case of Artistic License – Nuclear Physics, he uses a salted nuke (which realistically would have reduced Fort Knox to a crater) rather than a proper dirty bomb.
- In Halo: Nightfall, a Sangheili extremist attacks a shopping mall on Sedra with a transuranic element that acts similarly to a dirty bomb, releasing radiation that poisons and kills surrounding people seemingly at random.
- In Gaiji Keisatsu Black Dawn, Japanese and South Korean law enforcement/intelligence agencies are forced to work together after North Korean terrorists were reported to be last seen sneaking in and out of Fukushima in order to secure Japanese-made tech and information related to nuclear science left behind in the region after the Fukushima earthquake in order to help expedite the construction of a dirty bomb in the Korean Peninsula. The ending of the movie suggests that the head of the National Intelligence Service is willing to let the North Koreans activate their bomb before they're taken out at the last minute in order to support hardline policies against Pyongyang.
- Michael Connelly novel The Overlook has Harry Bosch investigate the murder of a man who handles radioactive material meant for medical use. When Harry and his partner find out that the man just withdrew a bunch of radioactive material at the behest of terrorists who kidnapped his wife, the FBI takes charge and it becomes a counterterrorism investigation of a "dirty bomb" plot.
- The bread and butter of 24. By the time Season 6 has rolled around, there are six dirty bombs that need to be found and neutralized, and they fail on at least one of them.
- Blindspot: "Split the Law" features not only a radiological bomb, but a bomb-maker as well. (His accomplices are shown to be dying of radiation poisoning, and the FBI agents tasked with tracking down the bomb are given radiation monitors and told about the risks of extended exposure to radiation.)
- Castle: The season 3 episode "Countdown" has the NYPD desperately trying to find one before it goes off. When Beckett & Castle find it, the obvious big red timer is counting down with less than a minute to go, and it's going to take five minutes for the bomb squad to make it through traffic. At 0:01, Castle yanks out all the wires, pointing out that one of them had to be the right one.
- An episode in CSI: Miami has the team trying to prevent one from being detonated.
- Madam Secretary: In "Left of the Boom", Hizb al-Shahid (a Daesh clone) steals spent uranium from Moldova and uses it in a suicide-bombing of an Muslim girls' education conference in Virginia. Henry McCord suffers radiation poisoning but survives. The rest of the season deals with the fallout from the attack, with Henry working on a task force to counter HS.
- One first-season episode of Nikita has a Mêlée à Trois develop between Division, its Russian counterpart Gogol, and Nikita and her ally CIA analyst Ryan Fletcher, over a dirty bomb. Nikita ultimately tricks Gogol into taking a Fakin' MacGuffin away from her, letting Fletcher hand over the bomb to the CIA.
- The 7th season of Strike Back (aka Revolution) has a nuclear missile missing from a Russian Tu-160 thanks to a rogue airman, which is sent from Malaysia to India, where the payload is disassembled to portable nukes for a potential dirty bomb attack.
- S.W.A.T. (2017) has the episode "The B-Team" where the LAPD and FBI are working together to hunt down a radical faction of the Okinawan independence movement since they wanted to use a dirty bomb against USFJ bases for the crimes committed by USFJ military and civilian personnel against the local populace with assistance from a corrupt research assistant from a research center who was Only in It for the Money.
- Command & Conquer: Generals: The GLA uses anthrax instead of radiation, but the effect is the same: a cloud of near-instadeath to infantry, while vehicles last only slightly longer. Their Bomb Trucks can be upgraded to do more damage, leave a cloud of anthrax, or both.
- Detroit: Become Human: An android steals a truck loaded with radioactive cobalt, wires it up to explode, then gives the remote detonator to Markus, leader of the android rights movement. Significantly, this bomb could make all of Detroit uninhabitable for humans, but the radiation would pose no threat to the androids. It's up to the player whether Markus sets off the bomb or not—if you do, it results in a Bolivian Army Ending where the US President declares this the start of an all-out war against the androids.
- The Excuse Plot of Dirty Bomb explains not only why massive areas of London are deserted but also provides a battlefield hazard to avoid.
Feedback: 43 replies