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.
That's it, we're doomed.
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Your statement (that you quoted) wasn't the only example of exaggeration. To make a bomb easily, you need enriched uranium, and that is not available all over the place. To make a plutonium bomb, you need a much more complicated device.
Maybe she's trying to sell a book.
Sorry, that's wrong. You'd get a criticality which would be like some C4 going off and a nice blue flash .... but not a BIG BOOM.
You need to explosively compress the mass into a supercriticality and feed it more neutrons.
All right ENOUGH, I get the picture. What if you're wrong?
If I'm wrong, we go to jail, peacefully, quietly, we'll enjoy it. But if I'm right and we can stop this thing ? Lenny, you will have saved the lives of millions of REGISTERED VOTERS.
Mrs. Doomonyou and I are going to a fundraiser this weekend in Sacramento.
Good stuff, appreciated.
WHOA! I don't think that is true at ALL. Chernobyl was an exposed, huge nuclear core. No WAY would ground zero be "hotter" - it couldn't be. Most of the nuclear material would be blown away.
Oh? Proliferating something for sure.
Where? I'm not sure which way the wind blows on the east coast, but anywhere but out to sea would afferct millions.
(Or maybe I've been freeping too long.}
Not really. The blast itself not only turns a portion of the material into energy, but basically throws the rest of it all over the place, as particles. This would definitely have an effect on the biosphere, but remember that the core of a fission weapon is rather small. It's not that much hazardous material, spread out over thousands (maybe millions) of square miles. Higher cancer rates near ground zero, perhaps slight increases in outlying areas. We wouldn't have hordes of mutants, though. Chernobyl was entirely different. That sucker was irradiating steam and weather like crazy (IIRC).
Hahahahaha! But wait! They'll blame GWB. Curses! Foiled again.
9. Liberals wonder "why do they hate us?"
Don't forget all the many who will die in the retaliation
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