Friday, May 7, 2010

The Threat of Nuclear Terror

Rarely is there anything worth reading at the Huffington Post, but an article by Dan Agin is an exception. Agin argues that the most people are unaware of the threat of nuclear terrorism, that the government is doing little to prevent it, and that it's only a matter of time before we are hit.
sooner or later, if current trends continue, there will be a successful bomb explosion, and an explosion of more consequence than an explosion of fertilizer and propane gas alone. ... Our problem is not fertilizer but nuclear material.
As he points out, the main threat isn't that of a true nuclear explosion, but of a crude device packed with nuclear material.
although dirty bombs are often also called "nuclear" devices, the explosion of such a device does not involve nuclear events. They are really ordinary explosive material packed with radioactive material, the ordinary explosion dispersing the radioactive material over a wide range--contaminating everything, people, objects, the grass in the parks, and the lungs and bones of your children.
The terror spread by such a device would far exceed the actual immediate damage. But how likely is it that terrorists could obtain radioactive materials? That depends who you ask, and how secure you think nuclear materials are worldwide. But as Agin argues, it appears we aren't taking much in the way of precautions against such material being smuggled into the U.S.
the policy of random inspection of only a small fraction of the contents of inbound container ships is essentially a policy of exposing the largest American cities to nuclear roulette. Does it make sense to examine every individual who crosses the border but not every crate that crosses the border?
He closes with this prediction.
The first terrorist "nuclear" bomb will be a dirty bomb exploded at ground level, in an apartment or small house, in Manhattan or central London, or in a place like Brooklyn or Islington.