Tuesday, March 13, 2007

More concerns about loose nuclear material

ABC "World News Tonight," on Monday March 12, 2007, reported that radioactive materials may be missing (that is, have been diverted by unauthorized parties) from as many as 85 sites in Russia and especially in former Soviet republics.

The report specifically mentioned Georgia (the former Soviet republic, not the American state), where a couple years ago there had been reports about loose strontium 90 canisters, and these are extremely toxic. Other reports, as in The New York Times magazine, have discussed potential security problems in Russian plants in an era east of the Ural mountains, and have proposed that there could exist a smuggling road through Kurdistan. It is likely that there could be sites all over the former Soviet Union, including arctic areas.

Former Senator Sam Nunn (whatever his unfortunate role in the debate on gays in the military in 1993), has helped make an independent film warning about the problem, "The Last Best Chance", review here.

There have also been concerns about possible major leaks within the United States, such as from the Tooele Depot in Utah, discussion here.

The ABC World News Tonight story also explained that it could be much easier for terrorists to make a small "dirty bomb" than an actual nuclear weapon. Such a device could contaminate an urban area of a few square miles, even if causing no immediatel casualties; and obviously could cause long term economic chaos.

See also my review of Graham Allison's book.

Update: 3/14/2007

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, arrested in 2003, confessed to masterminding the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Here is the link for the transcript of his confession (PDF).
Here is the link for the CNN news story itself.

Update: 3/19/2007

Waleed bin Attash, also at Guantanmo, confessed to planning the attack on the U.S. S. Cole in Yemen in October 2000 and the bombings of embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in August 1998.

The transcript of the confession is on defenselink, here.

A BBC story about loose radioactive material from Pakistan was posted on digg.com and here is the link.

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