WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of countries possessing the makings of a nuclear bomb has dropped by almost one-quarter over the past two years, but there remain “dangerous weak links” in nuclear materials security that could be exploited by terrorist groups with potentially catastrophic results, according to a study released Wednesday.
The report said a significant portion of these materials is poorly secured and vulnerable to theft or sale on the black market. Relatively small amounts of highly enriched uranium or plutonium are required to build a nuclear bomb, which is a declared ambition of terrorist groups such as al-Qaida.
“The result of a nuclear blast at the hands of terrorists or a rogue state would be catastrophic — with dire consequences that would stretch across the globe for economies, commerce, militaries, public health, the environment, civil liberties and the stability of governments,” the report said.
It cited two recent incidents in the U.S. that point up imperfections in U.S. control of nuclear weapons materials, including a July 2012 break-in by anti-war protesters at the Y-12 complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., that stores the nation’s supply of weapons-grade uranium, makes nuclear warhead parts and provides nuclear fuel for the Navy.
The study by the Nuclear Threat Initiative also cited the firing in October of the No. 2 commander of U.S. Strategic Command, which is in charge of nuclear war planning and would operate nuclear weapons if a president ordered their use. Vice Adm. Tim Giardina was fired amid allegations of involvement with counterfeit gambling chips — an allegation that raises questions about the potential corruption of nuclear secrets. Giardina has been under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; results have not been released.
Full article: Study reveals ‘dangerous weak link’ in nuke security (The Times of Israel)