Thursday, December 30, 2004

Nuclear Capabilities May Elude Terrorists

A somewhat reassuring article from WaPo (use bug me not to bypass the soul-sucking registration process) discussing the difficulties a terrorist organization would have procuring a working nuclear device. According to this, it's a lot more difficult than may be popularly believed:
Such difficulties have led some nuclear experts to believe bin Laden would be more likely to try to build an improvised nuclear weapon using a combination of uranium and conventional explosives. That design, known as a gun-type device, was used in the atomic bomb over Hiroshima.

While the technology is relatively simple and has been described in dozens of published scientific studies and policy journals, the path to development is filled with technological and logistical challenges -- the most significant of which is obtaining at least 50 kilograms of bomb-grade uranium. That amount would yield a slightly smaller device than "Little Boy," the code name for the Hiroshima bomb, but would be enough to obliterate any life or structure within a half-mile radius of the blast zone.

"If they got less material than that, it would be really dicey that they could build such a bomb," said Ferguson, at the Council on Foreign Relations
Not that this lessens the dangers of proliferation one bit, but it does make those of us living very close to the last major attack in the US feel perhaps a little better. A little if the current regime gets off its collective ass and actually does something about proliferation in the first place.


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