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Thursday, September 9, 2004

Nuclear Terrorism: Count Down to the New Armageddon

James Hoge reviewed Graham Allison's book: Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe. Some interesting points are:

• Big worry: Russia's large supply of suitcase-size nuclear bombs, which terrorists could smuggle into the United States in cargo containers or as airline baggage. The safeguards on these weapons are loose at best. (In 1997, Russia acknowledged that 84 of some 132 such weapons were missing.)

• Russia presents the greatest problem; 90 percent of all existing fissile material outside the United States is stored within the former Soviet Union. Still, it's not the only region we need to focus on. At least 32 countries possess weapons-grade fissile material.

• There are some 200 locations around the world where nuclear weapons or fissile material could be acquired. Russia, Pakistan, and North Korea are most dangerous.

• Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty loophole: all signatories to the treaty are permitted to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium to make fuel for peaceful power reactors, provided they declare what they are doing and submit to periodic inspections. In other words, states can come to the brink of nuclear weapons capability without explicitly violating the treaty. Then, without penalty, they can withdraw from the treaty and turn enriched uranium or plutonium into bombs. Both Iran and North Korean have done this.

Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe [Amazon.com]
'Nuclear Terrorism': Counting Down to the New Armageddon [NY Times]

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