Skip to comments.US expert sketches nightmare nuclear terrorist attack on major city
Posted on 09/22/2004 10:06:51 AM PDT by Area Freeper
A trained nuclear engineer using material the size of an orange could build an atomic bomb to fit into a van, proliferation expert Laura Holgate said, sketching a nightmare scenario of a terrorist attack on a major city.
She recalled that terrorists had attacked the World Trade Center in New York in 1993 with a van loaded with conventional explosives.
Holgate told reporters at a meeting in Vienna of the UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it was "not widely shared and understood" how risky the current situation is, especially since terrorists would not necessarily need top-level scientists to build a bomb.
The nuclear threat remains the big one, and all too real, said Holgate, a senior member of the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) think tank and a former US Department of Energy (news - web sites) official for disposal of plutonium.
She said the "raw material for nuclear terrorism is housed in hundreds of facilities in dozens of countries and inadequately secured."
"That's the central point of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative" which the United States and Russia have launched to repatriate highly enriched uranium (HEU) and to convert nuclear research reactors from HEU to low enriched uranium (LEU) use.
"We know nuclear theft is happening already," she said, saying that one institute in Russia has documented "23 attempts over eight years to steal nuclear bomb-making materials."
"We know these failed. We don't know how many succeeded and went undetected," Holgate said.
She also said she did not think terrorists had yet a nuclear weapon. "If terrorist organizations had been able to do this (obtain one), they would have used it by now," Holgate said.
The stakes are high.
"A nuclear device going off in any large city around the globe is going to kill millions of people," she said.
"The economic damage can be in the trillions (of dollars) and it can also be global," she said.
"This is in contrast to a dirty-bomb threat that tends to be hyped," she said about concern that terrorists could use conventional bombs with radioactive materials, contaminating areas with radiation rather than destroying them with the blast of an atomic bomb.
Holgate said a problem in making sure that nuclear materials are not lying where terrorists can get them is that there is "lack of acceptance" within the Russian government that "their material is not adequately secured and that there is a relationship between terrorism and these materials."
But she said the Russians seemed to be more aware of the threat since the Beslan school tragedy and a recognition of "weaknesses" in the Russian system, due to bribes and poor security.
The United States and Russia have produced most of the highly radioactive material now spread throughout the world.
Holgate said the United States and the then-Soviet Union gave out 20 tonnes of HEU in the 1950s and 1960s as part of the Atoms for Peace program for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
"Keeping track of where this HEU is now kilogram by kilogram is difficult." she said.
In addition, over 1,000 tonnes were created by the United States and the Soviet Union for their weapons programs, and there is no minute accounting for this.
William Potter, from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, a California-based think tank, said that in addition the Soviet Union and now Russia have some seven icebreaker ships which use nuclear fuel enriched to about 60 percent, Potter said.
HEU is uranium enriched to over 20 percent, but weapons grade uranium starts at 80 percent enrichment for the U-235 isotope.
Holgate said terrorists could do without the sophistication needed for small bombs. "A truck size is probably a more relevant size," since such a bomb could be made with lower levels of HEU.
This is just exaggerated BS. Unless the terrorist got a hold of a megaton-sized city-buster (I highly doubt they could build a thermnuclear fission weapon), the numbers would be far less than this. It would be awful, but not millions.
Still, it is my firm belief that if John Forbes Kerry is elected president, a nuclear device will be detonated in a Western City (most likely NY) within the next decade.
Regardless of who is elected, that scenario is almost guaranteed for a Russian City (Volgograd?).
Holgate might have also mentioned the "lack of acceptance" within our own government and institutions that have been importing chicoms and middle easterners for decades as exchange scientists and workers at our national labs and universities in the spirit of "globalism" and "new world orderism". The "pinheads" and "bee bee brains" in whom we have entrusted the security of what should have been highly classified technology have been passing it out like halloween candy for decades. When compounded with eight years of the "failed" clinton presidency total lack of national security measures and I'd estimate we're in a lot of trouble.
I'm not. I don't think a 10 kiloton bomb would produce wide-spread stampeding. It would gut the center of the city (where few people usually actually live), and irradiate a minor area around that. Not to sure about the lethality of a smoke plume from a small yield weapon (i.e. the weather-blown "footprint"). It would be a gigantic problem, no doubt.
I think you are right. This is about the size of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki weapons, and note that they were *air bursts*, about 500m above the ground IIRC, for max blast effect. The effects of a ground burst would be less.
Seven million people commute into Manhattan each day. Almost two million live on the island. Few of the residents commute out of the city to work. This means that on the average work day there are at least 8mm people on an island that is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide at its widest point. A groundburst anywhere in midtown would almost certainly kill a million people.
Correction: The widest point of Manhattan is 2 miles.
I beg to differ, if that were detonated in NYC there would indeed be panic to make 911 look like a parade.
It would gut the center of the city (where few people usually actually live), and irradiate a minor area around that.
Where millions of people work, this thing would go off mid-morning, mid week. Thousands, if not millions would be dead in the initial blast and thousands more would die due to radiation in the following couple weeks.
It would be a gigantic problem, no doubt.
Understatement of the year!
Why exactly Volgograd?.
Is Richard Marcinko a Republican? I loved his book.
Yes, I agree, thousands dead. In the hear of Manhattan, perhaps tens of thousands. That's NOT millions. That's my only point.
The effects would be somewhat contained by the concrete jungle itself, but look at the economic and psychological impact from the loss of just two buildings in 2001. It could be hundreds of buildings even with a small nuke, and the loss of life and economic trauma would be devastating.
Let's pray we never have to find out.
Thank god there is no way these terrorists can penetrate our borders!
I would say yes, but I don't know for sure; from reading his books during the clintoon years, Marcinko verbally bitch slaps him quite a bit.
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