posted on Mar, 24 2004 @ 01:11 PM
If what al-Zawahiri is actually accurate, it is more reassuring that they do not have such weapons.
1) It is VERY unlikely that an average "disgruntled scientist" would have any remote access to completed, functional weapons. Yes the scientist
might be able to get a little bit of material out, or work on missile guidance for Iran, but complete weapons? No way.
Nuclear weapons production is always compartementalized, and the scientists, specifically, would have the *least* access. Scientists work in a lab.
weapons are made in factories with blue collar workers making and assembling parts, with security men watching them.
2) if they are really "briefcase" weapons, and not older tactical artillery weapons, then they are probably fairly advanced to be made sufficiently
small to be in a briefcase. That is good, because the most compact weapons would require tritium boosting, along with all modern strategic weapons.
Tritium is expensive (can only be made in a nuclear reactor) and moreover it decays with a half life of 12 years or so. It turns into helium which
can hurt the nuclear reactors. Hence operational weapons require removing the helium and replenishing the tritium at regular maintenance intervals.
If the weapons had been rugged 1960s-1970's tactical weapons made for front-line deployment in the field where regular maintenance would be less
feasible, then those would be the most dangerous. These would be for military circumstances were complete maximum yield per weight was not
necessary as opposed to reliability.
For example, decomissioned nuclear torpedoes or depth charges, or maybe artillery shells. I don't know for sure, but they may be designed to be
operational without tritium or still work with low boosting levels.
They would probably not have the access code technology and advanced fusing mechanisms of the fancier missile warheads.