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.
Largest city in close proximity to Chechnya (2.3mm people).
Either way, a nuclear blast of any size would cause the relocation of millions.
That's a definite possiblity.
I think you'd see that here too.
A nuke would be the last straw for me to go hunting them down at their mosques. No doubt.
If a nuke wouldn't be the thing that pushes us to encamp Muslims for internment, if only for their safety, I don't know what would.
Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
Their willingness to use passenger jets as weapons and shoot toddlers in the back says that it is inevitible.
RIGHT ON! You are spot on in your remarks. We have seasoned teachers and professors who are more concerned with multiculturalism than educating our children in math and science. Sure, they teach science, like how we are destroying the planet with gas engine emissions, and math is now taught with a calculator, kids can't even make change without assistance from a machine, no wonder that we have foreign educated folks in places that should be secured. X42 was more interested in multiculturalism and campaign cash from China than national security. Remember the security diskette, found after weeks of searching, behind a copier at Los Alamos? Yeah, sure, it was there all the time! The Clinton Administration and the MSM were more concerned about the Chinese scientist than getting to the bottom of national security breeches. Unbelievable!
Thank's for that cheery thought! And I suspect you are correct.
I believe "street justice" would be widely praticed against all muslims if our government officials would not initiate an internment on their own. Law enforcement would not be able to stop it IMHO.
A nuking of an American city would make real for all Americans the life or death situation islamic terrorism creates, more than 9/11 ever could. I'd like to think that most people, if put into a survival/"kill them before they kill us" scenario would react accordingly (and with justification)...and it won't be pretty at all. I'm sad to say, it may be the only thing that saves America.
Having studied nuclear warfare while in the military, I'd easily agree with the millions estimate for the type device described.
A ten kiloton weapon?
I doubt if it would be any worse than a major hurricane.
A trivial amount -- around 1%.
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.
True, but you seem to be overlooking the fact that the energy from the blast itself, especially in a groundburst, converts a *huge* amount of surrounding material (dirt, stone, steel, etc.) into radiactive isotopes. The great majority of fallout comes not from the original core of the bomb itself, but from the secondary conversions. This is why groundbursts are much "dirtier", fallout-wise, than airbursts. They also stir up more of the irradiated material and send it up into the atmosphere, to fall... somewhere.
Although today, people would know to hop in their cars and get out from the probable path of fallout, unlike the unsuspecting Japanese in 1945.
Ah. Ok. Let me pick your brain a bit? Discuss a ten kt fission weapon going off in Manhattan. Millions dead? Or, as I've said, tens of thousands?
Manhattan Island is only 33 square miles. If there are 8mm people on the island during business hours, there are roughly 250,000 people per square mile.
It is very difficult to create a nuclear explosion. The critical mass has to be assembled quickly. Historically, several criticality accidents have happened without much physical damage at all.
And that ignores the fact that there are large areas of Manhattan that are pretty much unpopulated. I suspect that the area around Times Square is closer to 1mm per square mile.
If they screw up my property value, I'm gonna be PISSED!
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