Monday, November 06, 2006

BY WHAT MEANS CAN TERRORISTS GO NUCLEAR? Some good news and bad news

Today, UPI's Shaun Waterman went with a story entitled: "Analysis: No real terror A-bomb threat." It dealt with the recent publication, by Foreign Policy magazine, of "The Bomb in the Backyard." "Bomb in the Backyard," by Peter Zimmerman and Jeffrey Lewis, is about how Osama bin Laden might go nuclear. More broadly, the paper can be said to give an overview of how any sophisticated terrorist operation might attempt to do so.

"Bomb in the Backyard" is an interesting read, nicely tuned for the layman. It's here although you'll have to pay for it.

The technical issues it deals with have been known for a good long time. DD, for example, was first exposed to them in detail over a decade ago at a University of Maryland short course called "The Nuts and Bolts of Nuclear Proliferation."

It came with about thirty pounds of briefing books, a critical mass in a manner of speaking, one which has come in handy from time to time over the intervening years.

But back to the UPI piece:

"Two leading U.S. nuclear scientists say a team of terrorists with industrial equipment, physics and engineering skills and access to highly enriched uranium could build a crude atomic weapon in the United States for less than $10 million," writes Waterman.

"The claim, on the heels of revelations that U.S. agencies Web-posted detailed technical documents from Saddam Hussein's Iraqi nuclear weapons program that might aid such an effort, is likely to fuel concerns about the possibility of a terrorist nuclear strike inside the United States.

"Such a strike is already one of the 'low probability-high consequence events' that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's new risk-based strategy is designed to direct more resources to combating.

"But a careful review of the evidence suggests that there are technical obstacles to such an attack that are insuperable, for the time being at least . . . "

Read the rest here. Full disclosure: DD was a source in this article.

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