Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Russian black market trying to auction nuclear raw materials, Obama administration officials say quietly; where is the GOP on this issue?

The Washington Post has a major editorial today, “In an age of terrorism, disturbing questions remain on nuclear security” The Post refers to an series of at least three attempts to sell highly enriched uranium (in France, Bulgaria and Moldavia) from inadequately secured sites in Russia, since 1999.   The Center for Public Integrity has an even more alarming headline for the story, “The fuel for a nuclear bomb is in the hands of a black marketer from Russia, US officials say.”

Former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA), not having the best reputation for his role in “don’t ask don’t tell” in 1993, has since become a big advocate for reigning in on loose nuclear material, as part of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, link here.

The biggest practical risk could be the use of radioactive materials to build a dirty bomb, which would be as much an economic threat (for real estate) as a medical one (cancer). Actual assembly and detonation of a nuclear device, like in several films and television series since 9/11 (like Fox’s “24”) would be less likely. Related, of course, is the EMP threat.

As I’ve noted before, an old legacy web site of mine, since moved, was hacked in April 2002, starting on an essay (in my DADT II book, “When Liberty Is Stressed”) that specifically dealt with 9/11, in a passage that discussed nukes (with the jibberish overlaying it very strange in what it contained).  The incident was reported to the FBI and has not recurred.

I wonder if the Post placed this editorial today deliberately because of the GOP debates tonight on CNN.  The candidates have talked about Paris-style attacks but said almost nothing about hardening infrastructures or identifying caches of nuclear waste. Maybe the candidates will see the editorial and realize they should comment on this.

The book about Taylor Wilson (the young man who built a small fusion reactor) talks a lot about security threats involving radioactive materials, especially in cargo.  I reviewed it on the Books blog yesterday.

Update: Dec. 16

In the debates, Donald Trump did mention nuclear materials as still the nation's most dangerous threat, and Rubio talked about the "nuclear triangle" in defense policy.

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