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How To Safeguard Loose Nukes 167

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-the-wrong-hands dept.
Lasrick writes "The Bulletin has an interesting article about the likelihood of terrorists obtaining nuclear material. 'Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has logged roughly 2,000 cases of illicit or unauthorized trafficking of nuclear and radioactive material. Thirty illicit radioactive trafficking incidents were reported in the former Soviet region alone from 2009 to 2011. As Obama said in December, "Make no mistake, if [terrorists] get [nuclear material], they will use it."'"
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How To Safeguard Loose Nukes

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @10:57PM (#42962145)
    Soon, with the whole periodic table available in one giant print cartridge, people will be able to 3D print nuclear weapons. If someone manages to download plans for the Tsar Bomba, we're cooked.
    • Well considering that most material that is made, this includes all of earth and every molecule in your body was at one time a bunch of hydrogen under very intense pressured being cooked together basically, and most materials cannot be just made without these conditions...i think we are safe from terrorist printing nukes in the foreseeable future.

    • Soon, with the whole periodic table available in one giant print cartridge, people will be able to 3D print nuclear weapons. If someone manages to download plans for the Tsar Bomba, we're cooked.

      But the Feed is closely monitored for exactly this kind of thing. By the time your matter compiler is half way through you'd be splattered. Its when someone figures out how to make the Seed that we are all in deep shit.

      Or maybe not...
      http://orwell.ru/library/articles/ABomb/english/e_abomb [orwell.ru]

    • by rossdee (243626)

      And what would the cost of that cartridge be? Add in the cost of the packaging (lead shielding) and then the normal markup on printer cartridges, and the economy of the galaxy would collapse if somebody bought one. (see the history of Magrathea)

  • by e065c8515d206cb0e190 (1785896) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @10:58PM (#42962155)
    Seriously, what's the point of that Obama quote?
    • by c0lo (1497653) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:09PM (#42962237)

      Seriously, what's the point of that Obama quote?

      "Be afraid, be very afraid! That all you need to know" - seems like a good point to me (even if it's not necessary good for me or, for the matter, for the rest of about 7 billions with the exception of the people in power).

      • by anagama (611277)

        About the only part not gutted, is the GWB popularized phrase "make no mistake." Which makes sense given Obama's record -- why just embrace and extend GWB's policies when you can use his phrasification as well?

        • by c0lo (1497653)

          About the only part not gutted, is the GWB popularized phrase "make no mistake." Which makes sense given Obama's record -- why just embrace and extend GWB's policies when you can use his phrasification as well?

          Hmmm... I don't know [ww2poster.co.uk], I was expecting a bit of a higher "class" from him [typepad.com].

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:47PM (#42962513)

      Seriously, what's the point of that Obama quote?

      To continue the fascade that a bunch of people who kick it out in the desert and shoot their guns in the air at weekend training camps are evil because they're muslims or whatever, as opposed to people who kick it up in the woods and shoot their guns in the air at weekend training camps here, but aren't? Just a thought.

      I'm sure there are terrorists out there... but I'm also reasonably sure they are so few in number as to not be a serious threat. Even if a 9/11 happened every year, it wouldn't be serious, in terms of economic damage and loss of life. However, there are legions of people who have been labelled as such because it's the only way to justify spending trillions of dollars... I mean, what if there were only 300 terrorists in the whole world. What then? We spend a trillion dollars to "contain" them... when we really ought to just pay them 3 billion dollars each to move to a secluded island and live out their remaining days in luxury. Bonus: It would be cheaper than what we've been doing so far...

      • by sjames (1099)

        To be fair, Obama's approach has been much more effective than GWB so far. I would like to see our forces completely withdrawn from the region and replaced by small specialized forces to hunt down the actual terrorists (yes, even using drones) while NOT shooting up the countryside and generally convincing common people that the terrorists are right about us.

        Sadly, nearly anything would be cheaper and more effective than our invasion has been.

        • by DarkOx (621550)

          To be fair, Obama's approach has been much more effective than GWB so far. I would like to see our forces completely withdrawn from the region and replaced by small specialized forces to hunt down the actual terrorists (yes, even using drones) while NOT shooting up the countryside and generally convincing common people that the terrorists are right about us.

          Based on exactly what?

          It was the troop surge that worked. Bush pretty much started with the small force go after high value targets strategy we are using now and it failed then. It turned out you had to establish basic control and security before you could move to a precise targeting strategy. To my knowledge none of our military strategists and commanders have gone on record suggesting these strategies would have been viable without doing the surge and many have cautioned against over dependance on spec

          • by jbengt (874751)

            It was the troop surge that worked.

            The most effective part of "the surge" was us hiring militias to work on our side.

            Bush pretty much started with the small force go after high value targets strategy we are using now and it failed then.

            On the contrary, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were based on overwhelming military force, just not overwhelming numbers of troops. It's true that our military's original strategy stupidly assumed that the people would instantly rally to our side, start new democra

          • by sjames (1099)

            Obama actually found and killed Bin Laden (not personally, of course), the one person we are quite sure was involved in an attack on the U.S. Bush had us farting around in Afghani caves while Bin Laden giggled at us from a Turkish mansion.

            You worry about the civilians who Obama's drones while ignoring the over 100,000 Bush killed in Iraq? WOW! I don't think we have enough drones to kill that many people even on purpose. As for taking advice from military experts, they said that invading Iraq would take ten

      • To continue the fascade that a bunch of people who kick it out in the desert and shoot their guns in the air at weekend training camps are evil because they're muslims or whatever[...]

        Yes. They are (doing) evil (things) because of their religion. Like some christians. Religion is the problem here.

        Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

        -Steven Weinberg

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

          I'm an atheist, but I wouldn't say that was fair. What you do need is good people who believe in something, whether it's God, Communism or their Homeland.

          As people tend to believe in something rather than nothing, because a life entirely without purpose or meaning just leads to amorality anyway, you'll always have good people doing evil things.

      • by necro81 (917438)

        Even if a 9/11 happened every year, it wouldn't be serious, in terms of economic damage and loss of life

        Did you even slow down to consider the full magnitude of a statement like that? A 9/11 happening each year would be a 20% increase in the homocide rate. Air travel would plummet. Air travel did stop for a few days immediately afterward. NYC suffered tremendous economic losses - the loss of a couple billion dollars of prime real estate, the disruption of business for weeks and months, the suspension

        • by cellocgw (617879)

          A 9/11 happening each year would be a 20% increase in the homocide rate. Air travel would plummet.

          Comparing individual homicides with terrorist bombings is a completely false equivalency. As to air traffic: if if plummeted, so much the better as far as i'm concerned. People travel far more than necessary (Mr. Business Meeting Manager, I'm talking to you), and air travel is by far the least energy-efficient.
          As to your other points: first of all, if anyone in the Cheney-Rumsfeld administration had the slightest bit of brains, they'd not only have suspended stock trading (which would not have affected

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        We spend a trillion dollars to "contain" them... when we really ought to just pay them 3 billion dollars each to move to a secluded island and live out their remaining days in luxury.

        Well, that was astoundingly stupid of you. That will only create more terrorists, as they will have it proven for them that you can profit by being one. That's why we don't deal with terrorists. Dealing with pirates created more pirates, which is why sinking them is the preferred solution, rather than paying them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:01PM (#42962177)

    "Make no mistake, if [terrorists] get [nuclear material], they will use it."

    This coming from the world's biggest terrorist, the Drone Ranger

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      "Make no mistake,

      Translation [photobucket.com]

    • "Make no mistake, if [terrorists] get [nuclear material], they will use it."

      The same goes for all governments that acquire nukes for the first time.

      An initial demonstration is almost always necessary to make others believe your threat is real

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:05PM (#42962203)

    People need to stop conflating radioactive materials and nuclear weapons. The only 3 isotopes that matter for nuclear weapons are U-233, U-235, and Pu-239. These are the fissile nuclides. Get enough of these together and you can level a city. Contrast this with any dirty bomb material. If you get enough of that together and blow it up, you've simply provided contractors with 3 months of decontamination work with pressure washers. Not the same thing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by fustakrakich (1673220)

      You're forgetting, panic = ratings

    • by thesupraman (179040) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:24PM (#42962349)

      And dont forget, it better be a pretty damn small city, and you need a way to get the (not small...) bomb to correct altitude, AND it would have to work..

      It would probably be much more effective, and one hell of a lot easier to mail what ever fissile material you have to the local media, claiming to have a bomb...

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        It would probably be much more effective, and one hell of a lot easier to mail what ever fissile material you have to the local media, claiming to have a bomb...

        You're telling me it would be too hard for someone to take a big pile of conventional explosives, grind up the fissile material, and then load it into a rental truck and drive it downtown? Why do you think a bomb means "big mushroom cloud of doom"? It could just be a conventional explosive used against a soft target, but with the added collateral damage of having the entire area contaminated with radioactive debris. And once you're done, claim you'll do it again in 48 hours unless (insert terrorist demand h

        • by clemdoc (624639)
          The point was, I think, "level a city". For doing that, you need a really "big bang". Things that have mushroom clouds as a byproduct help with that.
          • If the terrorists were really serious about levelling a small city, I think a massive fuel-air bomb would be much easier to execute than an actual nuke, even a small tactical one. Start out with a big tank of liquefied natural gas, use a small explosive to rupture the tank and let the LNG go through a rapid phase transition and subsequent turbulent mixing with air, wait a little before detonating the second small explosive to ignite the vapor cloud. Hang this from a blimp or whatever for added effect.

            Als
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Assuming more cobalt-60 than has been produced, no decontamination, and the *OMFG NUCULAR* reactionaries...

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 21, 2013 @12:28AM (#42962771)

        I read that and I find that rather stupid. I'll tell you why.

        You see, I just spent part of this week getting a new Cobalt-60 source exactly like is described in the article installed in the facility where I work. 2500 Curies. You definitely don't want to be around it when it is exposed. If you were to steal it, grind it up, and evenly dust it over a thousand square kilometers, you'd have 2.5 Ci per sq kilometer, or 2.5 microCuries per square meter, or about 3700 dpm/m^2.

        Just so that you know, the typical standard of cleanliness when cleaning up an area which has been exposed to a Co-60 spill is about 200 dpm per 100 cm^2, or about 20000 dpm/m^2. In other words, the dirty bomb scenario described in the paper would be barely within the limits of detection, and if someone performed a contamination test, the area would register as "clean".

        Now, of course, in real life the dust would not be spread evenly, but then we aren't talking 1000 sq km as the article said, now are we? In real life, it would also be fairly easy to clean up as well, at least to a livable standard.

        I get really tired of dealing with all the locks, alarm systems, etc. that are now required just to have one of these sources on site. I totally understand and approve safety precautions like interlocks, etc. But having to get a key to unlock the key box to get the other key that unlocks the bunker where the source is, when it takes 12 hours to install or remove the source, just so that phantom terrorists don't steal it is a daily pain in my ass.

        • If you were to steal it, grind it up

          You know, of all the things I might try to steal, a Co-60 source is not exactly the most attractive. May as well try to french kiss a black mamba.

    • by Bomazi (1875554) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @12:06AM (#42962635)

      Neptunium-237 [fas.org] is weapon-usable as well.

  • If we didn't keep building nukes, forcing other countries to keep building nukes to compete, then there wouldn't be so many nukes out there. Sure, we here in the USA might be able to keep our stuff out of other peoples hands, but we can't control Russia, China, UK, or France, and that's not talking about what Israel, India or Pakistan really have. Of course, North Korea is now maybe testing weapons.

    Not to mention the USA policy of bullying other nations into doing what it wants? I think the problem i

    • by confused one (671304) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:25PM (#42962357)

      If we didn't keep building nukes, forcing other countries to keep building nukes to compete....

      We haven't built any new nuclear weapons in decades. In fact, we've been gradually decomissioning them, in step with Russia, as we reach new treaty agreements.

      • We haven't built any new nuclear weapons in decades. In fact, we've been gradually decomissioning them, in step with Russia, as we reach new treaty agreements.

        How about "bunker-busting" tactical nukes, which the US claims, are exempt from current treaties?

        Or how about armor-piercing depleted uranium ammo? Granted, that last one probably wouldn't qualify as a nuclear weapon, but at least, don't tell me that a tactical nuke is not a nuclear weapon.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          "Bunker-busting" tactical nukes were never actually developed. They were theorized and funded when conventional bunker-busters (then recently made relevant with the advent of smart bomb accuracy) entered the spotlight, but was ultimately shelved due to lack of targets and impracticality. (Deeper/bigger targets required impractically large nuclear payloads, conventional bunker-busters got the job done well enough by simply target ventilation systems and it was obvious that the enemy would react by building l

        • by khallow (566160)

          Or how about armor-piercing depleted uranium ammo? Granted, that last one probably wouldn't qualify as a nuclear weapon

          It wouldn't and you should know that. Nuclear weapons aren't stuff that just has uranium in it.

          How about "bunker-busting" tactical nukes,

          Ok, how about them? I see that the US has yet to dare use one.

        • by necro81 (917438)
          Do you know what the "depleted" in depleted uranium means? Depleted uranium is what's left over from uranium enrichment. Naturally occurring uranium is a mixture of U-238 and U-235 (plus some other stuff). Enrichment separates the fissile U-235 for use in power plants and bombs, leaving the U-238 behind. The U-238 is slightly radioactive, but isn't considered a nuclear fuel. This is why it's called depleted uranium - all its usefulness as a nuclear fuel has been separated out. Depleted uranium gets us
    • by NalosLayor (958307) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:27PM (#42962367)
      How many nuclear weapons do you think the US has built in the last twenty years? Hint: It's zero.
      • What about the so-called "bunker-busting" tactical nukes? The US claims those types of nukes are exempt from existing treaties.

        • Pretty sure those never actually got built.
          • Pretty sure those never actually got built.

            I'm pretty sure they were. [google.com].

    • If you didn't keep building nukes, you'd have three eyes and you'd be speaking Russian.

      The French do it because they're arrogant and want to prove they're not just cheese eating surrender monkeys.

      • Funny thing, that, because the facts disagree with you.
        USSR have pledged not to use nuclear weapons first, while the commanders of American Strategic Air Command have favoured preemptive nuclear strikes for quite a long time.

        Besides, what is wrong with speaking Russian? Every foreign language broadens your horizon.

        • So you're saying if USA had only one nuke in the Cold War, it would have ended differently?

          • Probably, and much more peaceful, I think. Soviet leaders were scared shitless of American nukes, that was the reason for the totally unneeded arm race which bankrupted the Soviet Union and lead to the Russia of the 1990ies and numerous bloody conflicts. This was also the reason why Khrushchev's peaceful coexistence doctrine ultimately failed and he was ousted, which was, in my opinion, unfortunate - USSR could have started something like perestroika a decade earlier.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gman003 (1693318)

      The USSR built nearly twice as many warheads as the US.

      Informative chart [wikipedia.org]

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Yeah, but the only thing that really matters at that point, is that it makes it that many more nukes that can potentially get lost. The US and the USSR towards the end of the '80s had so many nukes that they could have unilaterally dismantled most of them and still had enough in reserves to blast the other one into oblivion if they needed to.

    • by ganjadude (952775)
      right...its all our fault, because being a nuke power for 70 years, and only dropping them on one country (regardless of if you agree or not) negates everything else. we can argue whether or not the USA is right, its not always right, concerning world issues, but regardless of if we are right or not, just because we have something than can destroy an entire city, we should just let everyone have one right? hell some people want to take some types of guns away from americans, yet usually these same people ha
  • by asifyoucare (302582) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:29PM (#42962387)
    The terrorists will one day obtain enough fissionable material to make a bomb. Given that there were about 2,000 cases of unauthorised trading and probably even more unknown cases, and they might have it already. Hopefully they'll blow themselves up accidentally. Does anyone trust that Pakistan will never donate weapons-grade Uranium to terrorists, even if central government persists? If Pakistan collapses we're all in deep trouble.
  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:36PM (#42962441)
    The US needs to adopt sane foreign policy, our entire stance on nuclear weapons is this mythical idea that no country other than allies of the US can reproduce an invention from the 1940s. If a third-world country wants to be assured that it won't be invaded by the US, it needs to have nuclear weapons.

    Consider the different attitude the US has when discussing negotiations with nuclear-armed states and states without nuclear weapons. Nuclear-armed states are treated with much more respect and resort to diplomacy rather than outright invasion.
    • Nuclear-armed states are treated with much more respect and resort to diplomacy rather than outright invasion.

      Maybe that explains why the US is so chummy with Saudi Arabia

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      There are three countries that are not allies with the US that have nuclear weapons; Russia, China and North Korea. All of these countries have large armies to back up the nuclear threat.Even without nuclear weapons these countries would be a bloodbath to invade.

    • So the US has an insane foreign policy compared to Saddam's Iraq (invaded, fought, or threatened pretty much every country around them), North Korea (hurl missiles and threats against it neighbors), Iran (covert operations against governments of many countries in region, threaten others, including barely veiled genocide against former ally Israel)?

      So could you explain why it is that you think the United States wants to invade sane [youtube.com], peace loving [youtube.com] North Korea - a genuine light to the world [sciencephoto.com] guided by the enligh [youtube.com]

      • So the US has an insane foreign policy compared to Saddam's Iraq (invaded, fought, or threatened pretty much every country around them), North Korea (hurl missiles and threats against it neighbors), Iran (covert operations against governments of many countries in region, threaten others, including barely veiled genocide against former ally Israel)?

        Well, worded like that it actually not dissimilar to the foreign policy of the United States of America.

        Invasion and covert operation against countries in the reg

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:53PM (#42962557) Journal
    "Make no mistake" is what Obama says so you'll think he's serious. When he tells someone they're wrong, he says, "let me be clear." "It will not be easy" means you should vote for him (the voting booth is just down the street, you can do it!), and when he says, "here's the deal" who knows what it means.
  • P(terrorist, nuclear) = P(terrorist | nuclear) * P(nuclear)
    Because "Make no mistake, if [terrorists] get [nuclear material], they will use it."
    P(terrorist | nuclear) = 1
    P(terrorist, nuclear) = P(nuclear)
    we are doomed ...
  • How To Safeguard Loose Nukes

    Tie them down good with rope, and remember, if you cant tie knots, tie lots.

    Or maybe put them in boxes, they shouldnt roll away then.

  • did he really say "if get, they will use it" ?

  • by PerMolestiasEruditio (1118269) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @01:20AM (#42963105)

    1/ They have the bomb.
    2/ They are desperate for money, and have few qualms, and seemingly little good judgement about doing whatever it takes to get money to maintain their fucked up internal power structure. $2 billion per year exports at moment, but $3 billion imports and $20 billion external debt
    3/ There are numerous groups in the world who do not like the west (some 'terrorists', some countries) who could probably raise a few hundred million to a billion dollars to buy a nuclear bomb.
    4/ Short of hitting them with a pre-emptive nuclear strike North Korea cannot be invaded/stopped without massive risk/destruction to South Korea, Japan, and possibly USA (nuclear weapons + ICBM), also huge danger from China if it comes to a shooting war/invasion.

    Pretty good chance that North Korea will sell a bomb to someone to use on a western city. Iran and pakistan are also moderately dangerous. I wouldn't feel particularly safe living in coastal USA cities, or Israel for that matter in the next 20 years.

    • There's a big difference between building a test nuke in an underground chamber and building a nuke that is light and yet durable enough to launch on an ICBM, especially the types of rockets that NK has available. Not to mention heat shields and guidance systems and the fact that NK has no way of doing any of the preparation in any way that is hidden from US spy satellites. The risk is non-zero, but at this point insignificant.

  • The fact is, that nuke tech is spreading all over and every one of these nations are heavily connected with China. North Korea. Iran. Burma. And now, Venezuela is said to be working on nukes. The reason is that China is developing their own NATO in which all of their allies have nukes. Combine that with it suddenly becoming obvious that China has 3000+ nukes and not the 300 that they claim, and life will be far more interesting than the idea of terrorists getting access to a nuke.
  • Obama was saying that's a bad thing.

  • This book [amazon.com] is dry, boring and very wonkish. But after reading it you won't really worry much, if at all, about this subject any more.

  • Maybe the first time on /. this year, the word "loose" was properly used. This could make me loose my mind ... ooops, winning streak is over.

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