“The terror threat is significant"
March 19, 2017 1:37 PM   Subscribe

“We are going to be having an increase in the movements of weapons in coming years and we should be worried,” said Robert Alvarez, a former deputy assistant Energy secretary who now focuses on nuclear and energy issues for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. “We always have to assume the worst-case scenario when we are hauling nuclear weapons around the country.”
posted by Chrysostom (7 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
The trailer walls contain foam that can ooze out to immobilize attackers.

In pictures, getting sticky-foamed looks roughly akin to being attacked by an enormous bag of marshmallows.

I'm sorry this article doesn't have enough pictures. It is a good read though.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:18 PM on March 19


“The terror threat is significant,” said one high-level Energy Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the program publicly. “If you are in one of the communities along the route, you have something to worry about.”
The first part of that quote is plausible. The specificity of the second part seems like a weird statement. This unnamed senior official is worried someone's going to hijack a complete "multi-kiloton hydrogen bomb," arm it in the field while on the run, and then use it on to take out the nearest highway truck stop on the way to Amarillo?

Also, claiming that 16 out of 322 agents had an "alcohol-related incident" in 3 years is pretty weak sauce without providing any indication of whether they were actually doing their job at the time. "On a mission" is suspiciously vague language. Are we talking about someone driving an actual nuclear weapon down the highway while drunk, or someone spending the weekend in a small town in the middle of nowhere while they wait for Monday morning pickup and having a too-rowdy evening at the bar?

The US nuclear arsenal is terrifying, but I'm not entirely convinced the LA Times understands why.

(Which isn't to say that reasonable working conditions, better pay, and shorter hours for the employees doing this job wouldn't be a good thing.)
posted by eotvos at 2:36 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


The US nuclear arsenal is terrifying, but I'm not entirely convinced the LA Times understands why.

This.
posted by ethansr at 5:22 PM on March 19


This reminds me of my favorite headline ever, "Navy To Halt Star-Crossed Napalm Train."

(1998; short version -- it was fine when they were shipping it through unpopulated areas in the West but as it got towards the Mississippi and population density dramatically increased, people started flipping the fuck out about live napalm going through dense downtowns, and there were some shenanigans where the alternative plan was to use rail tracks that went through poor black areas on the theory nobody would care. Blagojevich, of all people, ratted out the Navy from a (possibly classified?) meeting he attended back when he was a US Rep, and managed to scuttle the train's entry into Illinois.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:34 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]


The worst (reasonably likely) case scenario here is some hijacker figuring out how to get the weapon to disable itself, assuming they even ship bombs with the electronics and pit intact. By disable itself, I mean firing off a couple of the explosive lenses, which will cause a conventional explosion (smaller than a truck bomb, even..there isn't all that high a quantity of explosives in there) and spread bomb parts and chunks of plutonium in the immediate area. Without the cooperation of the bomb's electronics, there is zero chance of a nuclear explosion unless "they" did manage to steal a complete bomb and spend weeks/months reverse engineering it.

Not really a disaster any greater than that bridge collapse in Oklahoma some years back in terms of deaths and cleanup expense, but the optics would be terrible. Probably less expensive than rebuilding a bridge, actually. I'm surprised they don't fly this stuff around and only truck individual non-nuclear components.
posted by wierdo at 5:52 PM on March 19


I'm surprised they don't fly this stuff around

They used to, even fully assembled and ready to fire, just unarmed. This led to an incident in North Carolina in which one 3 megaton bomb was stopped from detonating by the arm/safe switch (the last of four safety mechanisms), and the other was destroyed when it hit the ground. Which is fortunate, as its arm/safe switch was on "arm".
Plenty more hair-raising details at Alex Wellerstein's excellent blog.
posted by hat_eater at 3:40 AM on March 20


This unnamed senior official is worried someone's going to hijack a complete "multi-kiloton hydrogen bomb," arm it in the field while on the run, and then use it on to take out the nearest highway truck stop on the way to Amarillo?

Maybe I just have an overactive imagination but I understood this to mean that the device could be detonated as a last line of defense against theft.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 4:55 PM on March 20


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