Friday, October 26, 2007

Awesome Article in the BAS

Check out this awesome article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:
Nuclear Terrorism's Fatal Assumptions

This is the best piece I have ever seen on the subject. The problem of nuclear terrorism has been completely overblown, and most of the things "everyone knows" about the subject are simply wrong. Popular misconceptions about the potential misuse of ordinary civilian nuclear technology by terrorists, or the supposed ease of acquiring nuclear weapons, materials, and expertise in the former USSR, abound.

I'm planning to write a post about the usability of reactor-grade plutonium in nuclear weapons, and the reasons that I believe that the proliferation risks of this class of material have been grossly overestimated. The incredible thing is that a critical part of the debate hinges on an appeal to the authority of a single document produced by Sandia National Lab in the 1970s- a document that is probably being misinterpreted, at the very least. Besides this, there are excellent historical reasons for believing that this material is extremely difficult to use in nuclear explosives. I'll explain this in detail when I have time.


Ashutosh said...

It's a good article, but she should also talk about Cs-137, Sr-90 and Co-60, much more likely materials in a dirty bomb.

Sovietologist said...

That's a good point. I'm just happy that the article debunks the popular myth about the supposed "easy availability" of nuclear weapons/material in Russia. In American political discourse, there is an ubiquitous assumption that preventing nuclear terrorism primarily involves "getting the Russians to clean up their act," which is both untrue and hugely patronizing to the Russians. I think that this attitude is one of the many reasons for the decay of U.S.-Russian cooperation on these issues in recent years.

Ashutosh said...

i completely agree