posted on Jul, 17 2004 @ 10:03 PM
The threat is real, but the challenges are also real.
1) A "suitcase nuclear bomb", if it were actually effective, would also fry everyone who came in contact with it. No, not ten years
later, but very quickly. Death could occur within hours after exposure. Enriched fissionables are, by nature, hazardous to human health. There's just
not enough room for shielding sufficient to prevent fatal exposure to the gamma and neutron fluxen from these devices even in their "quiescent"
modes. For you ex-nukes out there, think "tenth-thickness", "density" and "radcon". Yes, you can use a "rabbit" approach, but that introduces
its own logistical problems.
2) An extensive network of domestic radiological sensors pre-dates 9/11 in the United States. We have been alert to the dangers of smuggled nuclear
weapons for decades, and have not been sitting on our hands.
3) Satellite detection of radiological "hotspots" is a reality, and has been for a long time. The ability of these satellites to detect small
amounts of fissionable material would best be described as "surprisingly amazing". Lightly-shielded nuclear devices would be child's play for these
4) The United States does not advertise its ability to detect fissile material. This falls into the "duh" category, but is worth remembering. What
the U.S. really knows and how it knows it is information that is most heavily secured.
Nota Bene: Yes, the Soviets did indeed successfully smuggle small nuclear weapons into the U.S. Unfortunately for the Soviets, we found out about it,
and tracked every last one of these weapons down and neutralized them, learning quite a bit about Soviet nuclear weapon design in the process, as well
as a few other things the Soviets would have preferred we not know. Alas, the methods by which we did this were not always painless for the
conspirators, and there were fatalities. But, on a happier note, the counterdeployment program was a resounding success.
I am not out to minimize the risk of attack from smuggled nuclear weapons, but to put it in perspective. It turns out to be maddeningly complex and
extremely difficult, as well it should be.
Chemical, and more ominously, biological weapons smuggled in hermetically sealed containers pose a far greater risk to the U.S. homeland.