Stocks and News
Home | Week in Review Process | Terms of Use | About UsContact Us
   Articles Go Fund Me All-Species List Hot Spots Go Fund Me
Week in Review   |  Bar Chat    |  Hot Spots    |   Dr. Bortrum    |   Wall St. History
Stock and News: Hot Spots
  Search Our Archives: 
 

 

Hot Spots

http://www.gofundme.com/s3h2w8

AddThis Feed Button
   

08/13/2009

Nukes and Loose Material

From the report by Matthew Bunn, “Securing the Bomb 2008” (11/08 and recently received by your editor as a result of his support of the Nuclear Threat Initiative) 

[Various topics] 

The Continuing Threat of Nuclear Terrorism

The Lessons of Pelindaba 

On the night of November 8, 2007, two teams of armed men attacked the Pelindaba nuclear facility in South Africa, where hundreds of kilograms of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) are stored. One of the teams fired on the site security forces, who fled. The other team of four armed men disabled the detection systems at the site perimeter – possibly using insider knowledge of the security system – cut a hole in a 10,000-volt security fence, entered without setting off any alarm, broke into the emergency control center, and shot a worker there in the chest after a brief struggle. The worker at the emergency control center raised an alarm for the first time. These intruders spent 45 minutes inside the secured perimeter without ever being engaged by site security forces, and then disappeared through the same hole they had cut in the fence. No one on either team was shot or captured. South African officials later arrested three individuals, but soon released them without charge, suggesting that they were not among the four who penetrated the site that night. The security manager resigned and several of the guards on duty were subsequently fired. The South African government has not released important details of its investigation of the attack and refused earlier U.S. offers to remove the HEU at Pelindaba or to help improve security at the facility. Indeed, South Africa has delayed for years in establishing and implementing a specific requirement that the site be able to defend against a defined set of potential attacker capabilities, known as a design basis threat (DBT), as recommended by the IAEA. As of the time of the attack, South African security regulations did not yet include a DBT. 

While there is no publicly available evidence that these attackers were after the HEU, this incident is nevertheless a potent reminder that inadequately secured nuclear material is a global problem, not one limited to the former Soviet Union. The Pelindaba break-in leads to one inescapable conclusion: the world urgently needs a global campaign to ensure that every nuclear weapon and every stock of potential nuclear bomb material worldwide is secured against the kinds of threats terrorists and criminals have demonstrated they can pose – including two teams of armed attackers, possibly with cooperation from an insider. But given the South African refusal to accept nuclear security assistance or to allow the HEU to be removed in the years leading up to the attack, the incident is also a reminder that political heavy lifting will be needed to overcome the serious obstacles to sensitive nuclear security cooperation around the world. 

--- 

Pakistan: Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile is small, stored at a small number of sites, and is thought to be heavily guarded, with substantial security upgrades in recent years, in part with U.S. help. In February 2008, DNI McConnell testified that the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment was that the Pakistani Army’s ability to secure Pakistan’s nuclear stockpiles “has not been degraded by Pakistan’s political crisis.” But Pakistani security systems face immense threats, from nuclear insiders, some of whom have a demonstrated willingness to sell practically anything to practically anybody, to armed attack potentially by scores or hundreds of jihadis. In at least two cases, serving Pakistani military offices working with al-Qaeda came within a hair’s breadth of assassinating former president Musharraf. If the military officers guarding the President cannot be trusted, how much confidence can the world have in the military officers guarding the nuclear weapons? 

--- 

Confirmed thefts: Theft of HEU and plutonium is not a hypothetical worry, it is an ongoing reality. Most recently, in February 2006, Russian citizen Oleg Khinsagov was arrested in Georgia (along with three Georgian accomplices) with some 100 grams of 89 percent enriched HEU, claiming that he had kilograms more available for sale. The IAEA has confirmed 18 incidents of theft or loss of HEU or separated plutonium. Other incidents are known to have occurred – the thieves were captured, tried, and convicted – but have nonetheless not been confirmed by the states concerned. What we do not know, of course, is how many thefts may have occurred that were never detected; it is a sobering fact that nearly all of the stolen HEU and plutonium that has been seized over the years had never been missed when it was originally stolen. 

The amounts required for a bomb are small. The Nagasaki bomb included some 6 kilograms of plutonium, which would fit easily in a soda can. A similar HEU bomb would require three times as much. For a simpler but less efficient gun-type design, roughly 50 kilograms of HEU would be needed – an amount that would fit easily into two two-liter bottles. The world stockpiles of HEU and separated plutonium are enough to make roughly 200,000 nuclear weapons; a tiny fraction of one percent of these stockpiles going missing could cause a global catastrophe. 

--- 

What would happen if terrorists set off a nuclear bomb in a U.S. city? Here, the answers are nothing short of terrifying. A bomb with the explosive power of 10,000 tons of TNT (that is, 10 “kilotons,” somewhat smaller than the bomb that obliterated Hiroshima), if set off in midtown Manhattan on a typical workday, could kill half a million people and cause roughly $1 trillion in direct economic damage. No capability is yet available to provide medical care for hundreds of thousands of burned, injured, and irradiated people in any reasonable period of time. Terrorists – either those who committed the attack or others – would probably claim they had more bombs already hidden in U.S. cities (whether they did or not), and the fear that this might be true could lead to panicked evacuations of major U.S. cities, creating widespread havoc and economic disruption. If the bomb went off in Washington, D.C., large fractions of the federal government would be destroyed, and effective governance of the country would be sorely tested, despite current planning for continuity of government. Given the horror of the attack, fears that more were coming, and the possibility that the essential ingredients of a nuclear bomb could fit in a suitcase, it is very likely that traditional notions of civil liberties and protection against unreasonable search and seizure would fall by the wayside. Devastating economic aftershocks would reverberate throughout the country and the world – global effects that in 2005 then-UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, warned would push “tens of millions of people into dire poverty,” creating “a second death toll throughout the developing world.” America and the world would be transformed forever – and not for the better. 

Hot Spots will return in two weeks, Aug. 27.
 
Brian Trumbore


AddThis Feed Button

 

-08/13/2009-      
Web Epoch NJ Web Design  |  (c) Copyright 2016 StocksandNews.com, LLC.

Hot Spots

08/13/2009

Nukes and Loose Material

From the report by Matthew Bunn, “Securing the Bomb 2008” (11/08 and recently received by your editor as a result of his support of the Nuclear Threat Initiative) 

[Various topics] 

The Continuing Threat of Nuclear Terrorism

The Lessons of Pelindaba 

On the night of November 8, 2007, two teams of armed men attacked the Pelindaba nuclear facility in South Africa, where hundreds of kilograms of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) are stored. One of the teams fired on the site security forces, who fled. The other team of four armed men disabled the detection systems at the site perimeter – possibly using insider knowledge of the security system – cut a hole in a 10,000-volt security fence, entered without setting off any alarm, broke into the emergency control center, and shot a worker there in the chest after a brief struggle. The worker at the emergency control center raised an alarm for the first time. These intruders spent 45 minutes inside the secured perimeter without ever being engaged by site security forces, and then disappeared through the same hole they had cut in the fence. No one on either team was shot or captured. South African officials later arrested three individuals, but soon released them without charge, suggesting that they were not among the four who penetrated the site that night. The security manager resigned and several of the guards on duty were subsequently fired. The South African government has not released important details of its investigation of the attack and refused earlier U.S. offers to remove the HEU at Pelindaba or to help improve security at the facility. Indeed, South Africa has delayed for years in establishing and implementing a specific requirement that the site be able to defend against a defined set of potential attacker capabilities, known as a design basis threat (DBT), as recommended by the IAEA. As of the time of the attack, South African security regulations did not yet include a DBT. 

While there is no publicly available evidence that these attackers were after the HEU, this incident is nevertheless a potent reminder that inadequately secured nuclear material is a global problem, not one limited to the former Soviet Union. The Pelindaba break-in leads to one inescapable conclusion: the world urgently needs a global campaign to ensure that every nuclear weapon and every stock of potential nuclear bomb material worldwide is secured against the kinds of threats terrorists and criminals have demonstrated they can pose – including two teams of armed attackers, possibly with cooperation from an insider. But given the South African refusal to accept nuclear security assistance or to allow the HEU to be removed in the years leading up to the attack, the incident is also a reminder that political heavy lifting will be needed to overcome the serious obstacles to sensitive nuclear security cooperation around the world. 

--- 

Pakistan: Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile is small, stored at a small number of sites, and is thought to be heavily guarded, with substantial security upgrades in recent years, in part with U.S. help. In February 2008, DNI McConnell testified that the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment was that the Pakistani Army’s ability to secure Pakistan’s nuclear stockpiles “has not been degraded by Pakistan’s political crisis.” But Pakistani security systems face immense threats, from nuclear insiders, some of whom have a demonstrated willingness to sell practically anything to practically anybody, to armed attack potentially by scores or hundreds of jihadis. In at least two cases, serving Pakistani military offices working with al-Qaeda came within a hair’s breadth of assassinating former president Musharraf. If the military officers guarding the President cannot be trusted, how much confidence can the world have in the military officers guarding the nuclear weapons? 

--- 

Confirmed thefts: Theft of HEU and plutonium is not a hypothetical worry, it is an ongoing reality. Most recently, in February 2006, Russian citizen Oleg Khinsagov was arrested in Georgia (along with three Georgian accomplices) with some 100 grams of 89 percent enriched HEU, claiming that he had kilograms more available for sale. The IAEA has confirmed 18 incidents of theft or loss of HEU or separated plutonium. Other incidents are known to have occurred – the thieves were captured, tried, and convicted – but have nonetheless not been confirmed by the states concerned. What we do not know, of course, is how many thefts may have occurred that were never detected; it is a sobering fact that nearly all of the stolen HEU and plutonium that has been seized over the years had never been missed when it was originally stolen. 

The amounts required for a bomb are small. The Nagasaki bomb included some 6 kilograms of plutonium, which would fit easily in a soda can. A similar HEU bomb would require three times as much. For a simpler but less efficient gun-type design, roughly 50 kilograms of HEU would be needed – an amount that would fit easily into two two-liter bottles. The world stockpiles of HEU and separated plutonium are enough to make roughly 200,000 nuclear weapons; a tiny fraction of one percent of these stockpiles going missing could cause a global catastrophe. 

--- 

What would happen if terrorists set off a nuclear bomb in a U.S. city? Here, the answers are nothing short of terrifying. A bomb with the explosive power of 10,000 tons of TNT (that is, 10 “kilotons,” somewhat smaller than the bomb that obliterated Hiroshima), if set off in midtown Manhattan on a typical workday, could kill half a million people and cause roughly $1 trillion in direct economic damage. No capability is yet available to provide medical care for hundreds of thousands of burned, injured, and irradiated people in any reasonable period of time. Terrorists – either those who committed the attack or others – would probably claim they had more bombs already hidden in U.S. cities (whether they did or not), and the fear that this might be true could lead to panicked evacuations of major U.S. cities, creating widespread havoc and economic disruption. If the bomb went off in Washington, D.C., large fractions of the federal government would be destroyed, and effective governance of the country would be sorely tested, despite current planning for continuity of government. Given the horror of the attack, fears that more were coming, and the possibility that the essential ingredients of a nuclear bomb could fit in a suitcase, it is very likely that traditional notions of civil liberties and protection against unreasonable search and seizure would fall by the wayside. Devastating economic aftershocks would reverberate throughout the country and the world – global effects that in 2005 then-UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, warned would push “tens of millions of people into dire poverty,” creating “a second death toll throughout the developing world.” America and the world would be transformed forever – and not for the better. 

Hot Spots will return in two weeks, Aug. 27.
 
Brian Trumbore