Nuclear weapons still a threat

Nuclear weapons must be kept out of terrorist hands at all costs.

Ian J Byrne


President Barack ObamaâÄôs vision of a nuclear weapons-free world should be embraced by all as it is the only viable nuclear policy against the enemies the Unites States faces today.
Mutually assured destruction (MAD) set the terms for the Cold War and ended up being an effective, albeit horrific, policy. But now the enemy the U.S. faces is violent Islamist extremists. There is no policy of deterrence with a group of people who believe that death is glorious. Striving to secure nuclear materials and technology in an effort to realize a nuclear weapons-free world is the best plan to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists who would be undeterred by our own nuclear arsenal.
The economic, psychological, political and environmental ramifications of a nuclear attack would mark the unraveling of society. The destructive power of even a crude one-kiloton bomb, with an explosive power equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT, would be devastating.
The amount of highly enriched uranium needed for a crude bomb is relatively little. About 20 kilograms of highly enriched uranium is enough to fuel one nuclear device with the explosive power of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.
There exist about 1.6 million kilograms of highly enriched uranium held by countries with civilian and nuclear weapons programs. This material is stored at hundreds of locations throughout the world. However, not every location where nuclear material is held is as secure as it should be.
There is no international protocol for securing nuclear material. Nuclear material has been stolen before from poorly guarded sites in Russia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa, to name a few.
The spread of nuclear weapons know-how is prolific. Go to Google and search âÄúhow to build a nuclear bomb,âÄù and voilà, with a few kilograms of nuclear material and a trip to the hardware store you are on your way to starting your own covert and illegal weapons program.
Google by no means has the expertise of a nuclear weapons engineer. At the end of September two American citizens were arrested for trying to sell nuclear weapons data to an FBI agent posing as a Venezuelan intelligence official. The international community must take steps to ensure that nuclear technology is secure and controlled by trustworthy mechanisms.
Dirty bombs âÄî conventional weapons wrapped with radioactive materials âÄî are troublingly easy to make. Radioactive material from medical, civilian or military sources can be used. While they are technically not nuclear devices, the danger lies in the radioactive material dispersed in the explosion. Al-Qaida has produced a dirty bomb, according to documents found in the Afghan city Herat in 2003.
Who is likely to supply terrorists with nuclear materials? While Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has insisted that the motives behind IranâÄôs nuclear program are peaceful, the international community has little reason to believe him. Iran supports Hezbollah, Hamas, militant groups in Iraq and the Afghan Taliban.
The fact of the matter is that Iran cannot in any circumstance be allowed to possess weapons-grade material or nuclear weapons.
A nuclear Iran would make the surrounding region reconsider their nuclear capabilities and be a tremendously destabilizing factor in an already unstable region. The question of world proliferation is a no-brainer considering their support for the aforementioned groups.
Even more worrisome, Pakistan is a nuclear power with al-Qaida and countless other terror groups operating within its borders. Pakistan has aided terrorist organizations in the past and currently aides the Afghan Taliban. How can the world be assured that its nuclear materials, weapons and technologies are secure?
The U.S. and international community must follow through on strengthening nonproliferation measures and make it known there will be dire consequences for proliferation. Congress must ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the latest Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia.
ObamaâÄôs Nuclear Posture Review released last spring was promising in that it redefined circumstances when nuclear weapons would be deployed and pledged that the U.S. will not employ nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states who are signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Our world cannot endure the horrors of a detonated nuclear device. The U.S. and the world should take proactive steps now to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and educate everyone of the destruction they possess.