More than one way to get your hands on nuclear material.
March 18, 2002 2:52 PM   Subscribe

More than one way to get your hands on nuclear material. You probably know that Russia's ability to keep track of nuclear material is something that keeps a lot of people in the US military up at night....but is it possible that the problems are worse than we thought? (more inside...)
posted by PeteyStock (6 comments total)
Came across this via my usual tour of the Washington Post this morning. To (vastly) summarize...Soviet Union commonly used radiothermal generators (RTGs) during the '60s and '70s to power navigation beacons and (apparently) provide power on some military bases. However, with the fall of the Soviet Union, we have a new problem (following item summarizes better than I could):

There are literally hundreds of places where terrorists could obtain material for such a bomb, including former dumping grounds for medical waste in this country. But the recent discoveries in the former Soviet Union have further heightened international concerns about the possibility of nuclear theft. The RTGs in particular offer high concentrations of radioactivity with minimal controls -- and sometimes no controls, according to officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations.

"After the Soviet Union broke up so abruptly, the newly formed nations had no use for these things and no infrastructure," said Melissa Fleming, an IAEA spokeswoman in Vienna. "They didn't have the means or even the information to locate, recover and dispose of them."

I really have to wonder if Russia has been dealing with us honestly about how well their controls are over nuclear material. I mean, the US has spent a good piece of coinage to try and help Russia update their systems to track warheads and such, but this article points out that there's still stuff we don't totally know about.
posted by PeteyStock at 3:06 PM on March 18, 2002

you think that's bad?
posted by Nauip at 3:47 PM on March 18, 2002

Even worse... U.S., Microsoft Refute Nuclear Data Vulnerability
posted by Nauip at 3:49 PM on March 18, 2002

keeps a lot of people in the US military up at night...

Tonight they may not be alone.
posted by homunculus at 4:00 PM on March 18, 2002

Gosh, I spent 2 years of my life going door-to-door discussing nuclear waste with enthusiastic, receptive taxpayers just because it was fun. You guys think this stuff might actually be a problem?
posted by sheauga at 7:18 PM on March 18, 2002

The science of RTGs.

Diagrams of RTGs used on spacecraft. The major difference would be the shielding; a spaceworthy RTG should survive most reentry scenarios and sink harmlessly to the bottom of the sea. (The amount of actual radioactive material is very small.)

Gee -- the FAS site is out of commission. I wonder why. Can't bring you their nuclear smuggling incident chronology. But I can bring you this item speculating a man who died in FBI custody may have had radiation sickness. (Of course, it was sourced via the dodgy

Sleep tight!
posted by dhartung at 12:08 AM on March 19, 2002

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