Oh, THOSE wmd's?, well.............
March 16, 2003 6:52 AM   Subscribe

"Weapons of Mass Destruction", you say? Question: If Iraq is the vicious rat and North Korea the furious pygmy of WMD threats, where is the 800 pound gorilla? Answer - "...law enforcement officials worldwide have seized 40 kilograms of Russian-origin uranium and plutonium since 1991. Stanford researchers have also estimated that only 30 to 40 percent of the nuclear material stolen from facilities in Russia and other territories in the former Soviet Union are ever recovered by authorities." the collapse of the Soviet Union left vast stores of Nuclear weapons and weapons grade plutonium and uranium, and stocks of chemical and biological warfare agents lying about at dangerously underfunded facillities scattered through the vast expanse of the ex-Soviet realm. "Russian stockpiles of weapons and materials are the most likely source for terrorists attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction", said US Senator Richard Lugar, Republican chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee. An international effort to destroy these stores of ex-Soviet WMD's is currently funded at a tiny fraction of the estimated cost of a possible US invasion and occupation of Iraq. (more inside)
posted by troutfishing (10 comments total)
Worries about conditions at these ex-Soviet weapons facilities - with their underpaid (or even sometimes unpaid)
guards and sporadic power outages - led to in 1991 the
visionary, bipartisan Nunn-Lugar program (US Senators Richard Lugar (R) and Sam Nunn (D)) which has participation and funding from the G8. "In the past decade, the Nunn-Lugar has spent $4bn to help former Soviet states eliminate or secure weapons of mass destruction. [Plutonium stocks are a concern (see below) ] Its successes range from dismantling one of the world's largest biological weapons production facilities in Kazakhstan to deactivating more than 6,000 nuclear warheads spread across Russia and the former Soviet Union." Meanwhile, many of the thousands of highly trained scientists and engineers who worked in the Soviet WMD industries now live in poverty, fueling worries that some of these individuals might provide expertise to "rogue" states or to terrorist groups.

"According to a Federation of American Scientists' Public Interest Report, 200-270MT [metric tons] of weapons-grade plutonium exited worldwide in 1996.1 The USA was reported to have 85MT and Russia was estimated to have between 100-165MT, although the exact figure has never been made public. The end of the cold war and US-Russian disarmament agreements have resulted fissile material, plutonium and highly-enriched uranium (HEU) becoming redundant. " (from link above)
posted by troutfishing at 7:02 AM on March 16, 2003

Contrast Richard Lugar's statement above with the somewhat tenuous evidence offered by the US for Iraq's WMD threat: forged documents, "drones".........

For a recent discussion on this, and the related issue of proliferation, see: this WBUR radio show: "Ever since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons have been considered the ultimate deterrent, the best security against nuclear war. That idea held for 40 years as the U.S and Soviet Union pointed thousands of nukes at each other.
Britain, France, and China joined the club, and in 1970, the Non Proliferation treaty earned pledges from more than 180 other countries promising to stay nuclear free, but the treaty itself is under attack. First it was Israel, then India and Pakistan, now North Korea and Iran are developing their own weapons. Even the United States is testing the limits of non-proliferation, as the Pentagon makes its case for taking nukes out of the bunker, to boost America's military might. Exploring the politics of proliferation with the Nobel Prize winning Physicist Steven Weinberg."
posted by troutfishing at 7:22 AM on March 16, 2003

Maybe this partly explains why the Russians are so obsessed about blocking war against Iraq... once the US is there plutonium sales to Iraq might well become much tougher to deny.
posted by clevershark at 8:19 AM on March 16, 2003

Everything will be so much simpler after we conquer Grenada, er, Iraq.
posted by y2karl at 10:04 AM on March 16, 2003

Old but very good material on "loose nukes"


and here

Great Jessica Stern book here

Professor Stern is the real-life scientist whose role was played by Nicole Kidman in this movie
posted by matteo at 10:06 AM on March 16, 2003

A group we all you some thanks to is Ted Turner's Nuclear Threat Initiative. It was NTI who ended up paying for the cleanup of enriched uranium from the Vinca Institute last year.
posted by homunculus at 10:12 AM on March 16, 2003

would weapons of mass destruction be used if the United States was invaded?
posted by specialk420 at 11:56 AM on March 16, 2003

yes, albeit lower yeild, more portable new weapons such as the butt-crack nuke.
posted by quonsar at 2:21 PM on March 16, 2003

posted by dash_slot- at 3:00 PM on March 16, 2003

matteo, that I clicked on Jessica Stern thinking Yeah right--Nicole Kidman, typical scientist looking type girl... and may I inappropriately say Whoa.
posted by y2karl at 11:24 PM on March 16, 2003

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