Nuclear Weapons Proliferation
PART 6  |  CHASING THE ATOM
1963 - 2009

Chasing the Atom | Introduction:

As the Soviet Union collapsed under economic burdens caused by the arms race with the United States, the Cold War ended and resulted in fundamental shifts in long standing geopolitical structures that had dominated the world throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Despite the implementation of a series of international nuclear weapons limitation treaties by the world’s nuclear powers, known collectively as the Non Proliferation Regime, long standing adversarial nations in Asia and the Middle East began to secretly develop nuclear weapons programs. ATOM DAYS reveals how the technology from peaceful civil nuclear power programs were adapted to secretly develop nuclear weapons by nations such as Israel, India and Pakistan. ATOM DAYS then examines how this “duel use” technology was then sold to the rogue nations of Iraq, Iran, Libya and North Korea by Pakistan’s senior nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, through a state sponsored black market. After the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001, that killed thousands of innocent citizens in the United States, our government allied itself with Pakistan to help fight its war on terror and allowed Pakistan’s black market of nuclear technology to continue. As a result, a nuclear weapons capability may now be in the wrong hands. Hands not guided by morals or international law but only their own agenda. Today, the terrifying prospect of a nuclear terrorist attack is now possible - if not probable. Despite all the evidence and historical warnings, our folly to pursue the power of the atom continues. We are still embracing nuclear technology as a source of energy that inevitably promotes the proliferation of nuclear weapons throughout the world.

1963 | Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTB)

Despite the severity of the Cold War, and the far reaching implications of the nuclear arms race, leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union made several diplomatic efforts in the last decades of the 20th century that saved mankind from nuclear armageddon. The first step towards controlling the spread of the atom came with the Limited Test Ban Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union that ended atmospheric and underwater testing of nuclear weapons. The treaty was originally proposed by the Eisenhower administration, and was then negotiated and signed by President John F. Kennedy after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963. “The weapons of war must be abolished,” Kennedy had urged the United Nations – and he made good on his word. After Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson picked up the torch.

1968 | Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

In 1968, President Johnson achieved one of the most important diplomatic accomplishments of the nuclear age with the implementation of an International treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons – better known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT was originally proposed by an Irish delegation to the United Nations as a method to slow the nuclear arms race. It arose from ongoing negotiations between the United States and Soviet Union to prevent the transfer of nuclear weapons technology to nations that did not already possess them. The proposal was originally received by some nations with suspicion and was debated as a diplomatic measure by which nuclear-armed nations could maintain a nuclear monopoly. The proposal eventually won nearly universal acceptance by the international community by including additional provisions. Today, nearly all recognized nations in the world are members of the treaty. The basic agreement is simple: 183 nations pledged to give up their existing nuclear weapons programs or never to acquire or develop nuclear weapons. The five nations permitted by the treaty to possess nuclear weapons (The United States, Russia, The United Kingdom, China and France) agreed to reduce and eventually eliminate their nuclear arsenals. Members of the NPT also agree to share civil nuclear technology for peaceful purposes with non-nuclear members of the treaty under the regulation and inspection of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Critics of the NPT have cited that much of the technologies related to civil nuclear programs are what is known as “duel use” components that have been used to develop nuclear weapons programs. The nations of India, Pakistan and Israel did not become members of the NPT and North Korea left the treaty in 2003. In 1974, India became the sixth nation to test a nuclear device and Pakistan became the seventh in 1998. The state of Israel has never denied or confirmed it possesses nuclear weapons, but it is widely believed the nation has had nuclear weapons since 1967. Despite these exceptions, the NPT was extremely effective in limiting the spread of nuclear weapons by establishing the idea that ones national security and self-interest is better served by not acquiring nuclear weapons. The underlying philosophical framework of the NPT hopes that if nations do not acquire nuclear arms then neither will their neighbors or adversaries. The premise is that a nation actually becomes less secure by acquiring nuclear weapons because it then potentially forces a rival to also acquire the same capability.
(Bomb Scare by Joseph Cirincione, pp. 28-26)

1972-1996 | Non-Proliferation Regime

The NPT is considered the cornerstone of what is commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Regime that encompasses various nuclear arms agreements and other diplomatic efforts for the international security of nuclear technology. After the establishment of the NPT, President Nixon initiated additional nuclear arms control measures including the NPT Exporters Committee to develop standards and guidelines to regulate the exporting of nuclear technologies for civil application to non-nuclear weapons states. In 1972, President Nixon negotiated and implemented the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union. However, these treaties proved only partially effective in limiting the nuclear arms race. The ABM treaty was an effort to discourage both sides from increasing the number of offensive ballistic missiles. It was thought that abolishing defensive missile systems would make a further increase in offensive missiles unnecessary. The SALT I treaty set limits on the number of offensive missiles or delivery systems each side could deploy. However, it did not limit the number of nuclear warheads each nation could deploy, and as a result, both the United States and the Soviet Union developed missiles that could deliver multiple nuclear warheads called ‘Multiple Independently Targeted Reentry Vehicles’ (MIRV’s). These new missile systems led to a dramatic increase in the number of nuclear weapons deployed by the superpowers. In 1970, the number of nuclear weapons held by the five nuclear arms nations was approximately 38,000. By 1980 that number had grown to a total of 54,700 weapons. In 1974, President Ford conducted negotiations with the Soviet Union on the SALT II treaty, which sought to provide a long-term agreement to the number of nuclear weapons delivery systems and also begin limiting the number of warheads each nation could manufacture. SALT II was signed by President Carter and General Premier Leonid Brezhnev in 1979 but was never ratified by the U.S. Congress due to renewed tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980.
(Bomb Scare by Joseph Cirincione, pp. 28-36)

1987 | Intermediate Range Forces Treaty (INF)

When Ronald Reagan became President of the United States in 1981, the progress made with nuclear weapons limitation treaties of past decades were seemingly jeopardized. Reagan began a series of new programs to dramatically increase U.S. nuclear and conventional military strength including the development the MX missile that could carry ten nuclear warheads, the B1 Strategic Bomber and a series of elaborate spaced-based anti-missile systems called the Strategic Defense Initiative; commonly known as “Star Wars”. Ronald Reagan’s second term as President was characterized by a major shift in policy with the initiation of new diplomatic measures for the control of nuclear weapons. Historians contend that Reagan’s strategy for the initial build up of U.S. nuclear forces during his first term as President was always intended to convince the Soviet Union they could not win the arms race and encourage them to enter into significant nuclear arms reduction agreements. In 1987, President Reagan negotiated the Intermediate Range Forces Treaty (INF), which effectively ended the deployment of intermediate range missiles in Europe by the United States and the Soviet Union. The same year, he also initiated the Missile Technology Control Regime in an attempt to slow the spread of Ballistic Missile technology.
(Bomb Scare by Joseph Cirincione, pp. 38-39)

1991-1993 | START Treaties

Finally, Reagan negotiated the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). START was the first agreement to actually reduce rather than simply limit the nuclear weapons  that the United States and the Soviet Union possessed. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, President George H.W. Bush signed START, which called for the reduction of U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads to a total of 6000 each. President Bush then negotiated and signed the START II treaty in 1993 that called for even further reductions. START II required that the United States and Russia limit their deployed nuclear forces to no more than 3500 each. Under the suggestion and guidance of then General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Bush went on to unilaterally disarm the Army and Navy surface fleet of tactical nuclear weapons, and also ended the decades old hair trigger alert status of U.S. Strategic Bomber Forces. Two weeks later, President Mikhail Gorbachev reciprocated with similar withdraws of tactical nuclear weapons and took the Soviets first strike ICBM’s off continuous high alert.

During the 1990’s President Clinton won U.S. congressional ratification of the START II treaty, which helped remove nuclear weapons from the former Soviet nations of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine and implemented a permanent extension the NPT. He also negotiated and signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996, which is intended to prohibit all nuclear weapons test explosions. The treaty requires ratification by 44 named nations, before the treaty can be confirmed internationally. Of these, India, Pakistan, and North Korea have not signed the treaty and seven nations; China, Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, and the United States have signed but not ratified the treaty. Despite these shortcomings, the Non-Proliferation Regime has persuade numerous states to abandon their nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons programs including Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine and Yugoslavia.
(Bomb Scare by Joseph Cirincione, pp. 39-42)

The demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War resulted in fundamental shifts in long standing geopolitical structures that had dominated the world throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Although the Nuclear Arms Race had threatened the world with the prospect of total annihilation, it had also provided a certain level of security under the auspice of mutually assured destruction. While a few nations acquired their own nuclear weapons during that time, most had allied themselves with either the United States or the Soviet Union. These alliances had provided conventional military and nuclear weapons umbrellas that helped enforce the Non Proliferation Regime and slow the spread of nuclear weapons. When the Soviet Union collapsed under its own economic burdens caused by the arms race with the United States, a delicate balance of power dissolved. While many nations abandoned there nuclear weapons programs when the NPT went into effect, some did not, and some nations still perceive the Non-Proliferation Regime as an ongoing effort by the permitted nuclear powers to “disarm the disarmed”. The development of nuclear weapons programs in India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea after the NPT went into effect may still encourage other nations to openly develop nuclear weapons of their own, despite the diplomatic and economic consequences imposed by the Non–Proliferation Regime. Other nations such as Iran may also be developing secret nuclear weapons programs as signatories to the NPT under the guise of civil nuclear activities.
(The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor by William Langewiesche, pp. 104-106)

Nations decide to acquire or not to acquire nuclear weapons for various reasons including: national security, international prestige, domestic politics, economic factors and technological abilities or barriers. Conventional wisdom holds that the First and Second World Wars in Europe, followed by the threat of the Soviet Union compelled Great Britain and France to develop their own nuclear arsenals for national security purposes. However, prestige may have also played an important role. In the aftermath of World War II, Great Britain and France were reduced to lesser nations and the United States nuclear arsenal provided ample protection to its wartime allies against Soviet aggression. In the beginning of the 20th century the ultimate weapon was the battleship. In order to be a world power at that time, a nation had to have battleships. To be a superpower, a nation needed a fleet of battleships to project power internationally. After World War II, the ultimate weapon became the atom bomb. Many historians argue that Great Britain and France developed nuclear weapons not only for national security reasons, but also to remain world powers on the international stage. In additional to factors of prestige and security Great Britain was also compelled to develop nuclear weapons from technological ability. British scientists began work on an atomic bomb even before the United States, and collaborated in the Manhattan Project that produced the first military atomic weapons. Therefore, Great Britain already had the technological knowledge to obtain nuclear weapons. National security is also cited as the primary factor for China to develop a nuclear arsenal – first to counter what was perceived as United States imperialism and aggression during the Korean War and later due to political conflict with the Soviet Union.

1967 | Israel's Bomb

National security can also be cited as the primary reason for the state of Israel to covertly acquire nuclear weapons. Although Israel arguably has the most powerful conventional military forces in the Middle East, its existence has been challenged by Arab nations in the region since its formation after World War II. Even after victories in the conventional wars of 1949, 1967 and 1972 that Israel fought against its Muslim neighbors, the Israeli government believes a nuclear arsenal to be essential to the nations survival. Israel’s nuclear philosophy is a direct result of the Holocaust and was driven by its first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion… ”The Jews of Israel will never be like the Jews in the Holocaust. Israel will be able to visit terrible retribution on those who attempt its destruction.” Historical evidence suggests that Israel began its nuclear weapons program around 1956, when it obtained a commitment from France to build a 24 megawatt research reactor in exchange for Israel’s aid in an attack on Egypt in what became known as the 1956 Tripartite War. France is also suspected of having provided plans and technology for a uranium reprocessing plant as part of the deal.

Israel then conducted a covert mission through its secret service known as the “Mossad” to smuggle enriched uranium out of the United States from NUMEC; a nuclear reprocessing plant in Pennsylvania operated by a Jewish American - Israeli sympathizer Dr. Salman Shapiro. Shapiro provided the Mossad with about 100 pounds of enriched uranium in roughly a dozen shipments under the disguise of radioactive medical supplies and irradiated food by skimming the material off several uranium recovery contracts from spent reactor fuel. The missing uranium went unnoticed since reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel usually results in a loss of the reprocessed material. While at NUMEC, Mossad agents also obtained detailed information on the refinement process to make enriched uranium. In addition, Israel also smuggled large amounts of heavy water from France and Norway to modify its French built “Dimona” nuclear power plant and converted it into a plutonium production facility for making for nuclear weapons. The actual size Israel's nuclear arsenal is still unknown. It has been widely reported that Israel had at least two bombs in 1967, and thirteen by the 1973 Yom Kippur War that was fought between Israel and a coalition of Arab nations under Egypt and Syria. In 1986, photographs of warheads and the covert bomb factory at the Dimona nuclear complex were published in the London Sunday Times. The photographs were taken by a dismissed Israeli nuclear technician named Mordechai Vanunu. This information has led experts to conclude that Israel now has a stockpile of between 100 to 200 nuclear weapons, which it can deploy on aircraft, missiles and submarines. Israel is a prime example of how a nation can covertly develop a robust nuclear arms program outside the international Non-Proliferation Regime.
(Bomb Scare by Joseph Cirincione, pp. 60-68)
(Gideon’s Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad by Gordon Thomas, pp.91-95)
(http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/israel/nuke/)

1974 | India's Bomb

Once China tested its first nuclear weapon in 1964, the atom also proliferated further in Asia and India. India developed nuclear weapons outside the Non Proliferation Regime with technology from its robust civil nuclear power industry born out of President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” initiative. Rather than uranium enrichment, India took the path of chemically separating plutonium from the spent fuel of nuclear reactors. China’s nuclear arsenal was perceived as a direct threat by neighboring India. India subsequently rejected the NPT and went on to test a “peaceful purpose” nuclear device in 1974. India’s decision to acquire nuclear weapons was also encouraged by prestige factors and its desire to be recognized as a major power in the world. In addition, decades of domestic political pressure from its military and scientific community also played a significant role. India’s nuclear test resulted in the development of a nuclear weapons program by Pakistan.
(Bomb Scare by Joseph Cirincione, pp. 47-59)
(The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor by William Langewiesche, pp. 86-88)

1977 | South Africa's Bomb

South Africa began to secretly developed nuclear weapons during the 1970’s . Due to its apartheid politics and human rights abuses instituted by a white supremacist government, South Africa became internationally ostracized and decided to pursue a clandestine nuclear weapons program for the regime's security. South Africa organized networks in Europe and the United States, and began a secret collaboration with Israel to procure nuclear weapons technology. Most evidence argues against Israel’s direct cooperation in providing South Africa with weapon designs. However, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Israel traded 30 grams of tritium in exchange for 50 tons of South African uranium in 1977 and also assisted in the development of the South Africa’s RSA-3 ballistic missile. In 1993, just prior to a transition to a majority rule government, South Africa officially announced its secret nuclear weapons program and decision to dismantle an arsenal of six atomic bombs. Nelson Mandela, the first President of the new majority rule government abolished the nation’s nuclear weapons program and reaffirmed South Africa’s commitment to the NPT.
(Bomb Scare by Joseph Cirincione, pp. 52-62)
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
South_Africa_and_weapons_of_mass_destruction)

1974 | A.Q. Khan

The most dangerous agent for the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology outside the guidelines of the NPT is without question the Islamic nation of Pakistan and its state sponsored nuclear black market activities of Abdul Qadeer Khan. Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions began in 1956 with the formation of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and the establishment of the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH) in 1961; which independently developed a 5-megawatt research reactor. Then, in 1965, just prior to the NPT, Pakistan acquired a nuclear power plant from Canada. After defeat in the 1971 war with its Hindu rival India, which resulted in the loss of roughly a fifth of its territory, the political leadership of Pakistan under Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto proclaimed that the Pakistani people would make any sacrifice necessary to acquire the bomb even they had to “eat grass or go hungry”; due to economic sanctions put on Pakistan from the Non Proliferation Regime. In 1973 Pakistan signed a contract to purchase the design of a nuclear reprocessing plant from the French company, Saint Gobain Nucleaire. At the time, France had still not joined the NPT because key members of its government believed other nations besides the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and China had the right to bear nuclear arms. Not surprisingly, Saint Gobain Nucleaire was the same company who had provided Israel its Dimona Plant designs. In 1974, a second contract was signed between Pakistan and Saint Gobain Nucleaire for the construction of a plutonium reprocessing plant. By this time, Pakistan had built several nuclear reactors which could provide material to process plutonium for atomic weapons. In 1976, the United States disclosed intelligence to France concerning Pakistan’s nuclear weapons ambitions and delivery of the plant was halted. The cancellation resulted in a major setback for the PAEC plutonium bomb program.
(Spying on the Bomb by Jeffrey T. Richelson, pp. 327-329)

In the summer of 1974, Abdul Qadeer Khan contacted Bhutto and offered his services to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Khan was a brilliant Indian born Muslim who had earned a PhD in metallurgical engineering and worked for a Dutch Company Fysisch Dynamisch Onderzoek (FDO). The company designed ultra-centrifuges for a Uranium Enrichment Company called URENCO. URENCO was established in 1970 to provide Great Britain, West Germany and the Netherlands with supplies of enriched Uranium for their nuclear power plants. While working at FDO, Khan had become intimately familiar with the state-of-the-art technology used in the URENCO centrifuge plant. Centrifuges are used to refine natural uranium yellow cake by separating out U-235 from U-238. Uranium is converted to gas form and fed through a series of centrifuges spinning at 70,000 rpm known as a “cascade”. This process incrementally separates the two isotopes to the desired level of enrichment and then the gas is converted back to metal form. Normally, the process is used to enrich natural uranium to a 3% concentration of U-235 for use as fuel in nuclear reactors. However, ultra-centrifuges are a “dual use” technology. The types of centrifuges designed for the Urenco plant are perfectly suited to enrich uranium well beyond the purity required for nuclear reactors. By continuing the “cascade” process longer, centrifuges can enrich natural uranium to create 90% pure U-235 used in atomic weapons. After India’s successful test of its “peaceful” nuclear device in May of 1974, Khan made several trips to Pakistan and provided detailed information on the Urenco centrifuge plant. After a failed attempt to recruit a fellow FDO colleague in the effort, and a Dutch investigation of a Pakistani agent who was attempting to purchase centrifuge components similar to those used in the FDO designs, Khan came under suspicion. In December of 1975, he went to Pakistan with his family for the Christmas Holiday and never returned. To cover his tracks, Khan informed FDO that he had fallen ill and later regretfully resigned to take an “important new job”. By the time Dutch authorities realized what had happen it was too late. Khan had succeeded in copying the designs for the Urenco plant – the most advanced uranium enrichment process in the world.
(The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor by William Langewiesche,; pp. 86-98)

After a brief position at the PAEC, Khan persuaded Bhutto to fund an alternative path to a bomb by uranium enrichment. In 1976, he founded an new engineering and research laboratory and immediately began plans to build a centrifuge plant based on the stolen Urenco designs at a small remote town called Kahuta. The Pakistan government gave him nearly unlimited funding and officially declared that the new plant was for production of low-grade enriched uranium for use in nuclear power plants. Despite the fact U.S. intelligence knew about the weapons program, Pakistan was still considered a cold war client nation of the United States and therefore received American economic aid much of which was used to fund Khan's program. In addition, evidence suggests that Saudi Arabia and Libya also provided financial aid to Khan’s early efforts. With his funding secure, Khan went on a nuclear shopping spree across Europe to purchase the components he needed for his uranium enrichment plant and develop an underground procurement network for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Despite the fact that Pakistan was banned under the NPT from purchasing nuclear technology from other NPT signatory nations, the export control regulations agreed upon by many European nations under international accords were relatively relaxed, particularly involving ambiguous “dual use” nuclear technology. Moreover, many European corporations and government officials resented the Non-Proliferation Regime and felt the United States was using the NPT to monopolize the marketplace for the materials and technology that supplied the international civil nuclear industry. Despite warnings from U.S. intelligence services and the regulations imposed by the NPT, many nations including France, Sweden and West Germany allowed nuclear technology transactions with Pakistan to occur either openly or in secret.
(The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor by William Langewiesche, pp. 105-115)

 1998 | Pakistan's Bomb

By 1982, A.Q. Khan’s reprocessing plant at Kahuta was fully operational and began producing weapons grade uranium. Pakistan’s new Prime Minister General Zia, who had overthrown and executed Bhutto in 1974, renamed the facility The Khan Research Laboratories. At this time, the United States attention was refocused on the Soviet Unions Invasion of Afghanistan. The United States found itself forced to ally with Pakistan to help infiltrate insurgents into Afghanistan along Pakistan’s border to support the Afghan rebellion of the Soviet invasion. Soon after, Pakistan succeeded in developing nuclear weapons. In 1998, India conducted five underground nuclear weapons tests; one of which was claimed to be a low yield thermonuclear device. In response, Pakistan conducted a similar series of underground tests several weeks later confirming for the world that it possessed the bomb. The success of Khan’s nuclear weapons program would have far reaching implications beyond the obvious danger associated with the corrupt and unstable government of Pakistan now being in possession of atomic bombs. The Pakistan nuclear weapons program and had made Khan a rich man and had elevated him an elite status. While the West considers him the most dangerous spy since Karl Fuchs, he is revered as a national hero in Pakistan. But Khan wanted more. Backed by Pakistan’s corrupt leaders, who undoubtedly also benefited financially, Khan began to use the secret procurement network he had developed for the Pakistan military to peddle nuclear technology and components to other nations with similar aspirations; including North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Libya.
(The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor by William Langewiesche, pp. 115-126)

In 2000, after several years of U.S. and foreign intelligence reports describing A.Q. Khan’s activities, the United States finally confronted Pakistan’s latest political and military leader, Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf, with undisputable evidence of the illegal export of sensitive nuclear technology. This included photographs of a direct state-to-state swap with North Korea of Pakistani centrifuges for prototype ballistic missiles. The missiles were later modified and produced at the Khan Research Laboratories. Initially, the Musharraf regime lied and claimed Pakistan had no part in the nuclear component exports. Eventually, after further pressure from the United States State department, Musharraf suggested that Khan may have orchestrated the exports without the knowledge of the Government. Musharraf promised to stop Khans activities and after a mock investigation relieved him of his position at The Khan Research Laboratories to appease the United States. Thereafter, Khan was appointed Musharraf’s chief scientific advisor and not surprisingly the trade between North Korea and other pariah nations continued. Finally, after waiting for the approval of the U.S. Congress to invade Iraq, the U.S. administration under George W. Bush finally made the relationship between Pakistan and North Korea public. In 2003, the United States intercepted a German ship, the BBC China, carrying Pakistani designed centrifuge technology destined for Libya - a long time sponsor of international terrorist organizations including the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). When confronted, Libya’s militant dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, confessed to his own clandestine nuclear weapons program. In 2003, Libya agreed to answer questions from IAEA officials concerning its nuclear arrangements with Pakistan and thereafter agreed to join the NPT framework in exchange for being accepted back into the international community. In January of 2004, Libya handed over nuclear weapons related documents it had obtained from Pakistan, including designs for a Chinese designed plutonium implosion bomb. Unbelievably, even after the 2001 9/11 attacks on the United States by Al Qaeda, a terrorist organization that had long standing ties with Pakistan, the United States under the Bush administration continued a close alliance with Pakistan. As the inevitable news broke about Khan’s ongoing nuclear black market, the United States was forced to pressure the Pakistan government about their involvement. Again Musharraf claimed innocence and claimed Kahn (his senior scientific advisor) was operating independently. In an attempt to cover the ongoing lies, Khan was forced to provide a false public statement exonerating the Pakistani government and was then permanently placed under house arrest. Sadly, this cover-up has been accepted by President Bush’s administration without objection.
(The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor by William Langewiesche, pp. 164-175)

1974 | Iraq's Nuclear Weapons Program

Iraq’s nuclear weapons ambitions date back to the nuclear weapons test by India in 1974 . By that time, Iraq already possessed modest research and civil nuclear programs that included a small 2-megawatt reactor provided by the Soviet Union during the 1960’s. During the 1970’s, Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein negotiated the purchase two additional nuclear research reactors from France, which he named Tammuz I, and Tammuz II. Saddam’s nuclear weapons program would initially be focused on the extraction of plutonium from these reactors through another contract with an Italian firm for the purchase of a series of nuclear research laboratories. While Iraq’s nuclear ambitions did not concern Western Leaders at the time, Israel began to make allegations that Iraq was attempting to develop nuclear weapons. Israel made several diplomatic attempts to persuade France not to provide additional assistance to Iraq’s nuclear program. In 1978, Iraq’s refusal to accept low enriched uranium from France rather than the originally promised highly enriched uranium finally substantiated Israel’s claims. In addition to it's nuclear weapons program, Iraq was also developing chemical and biological weapons. On June 7th, 1981 Israel conducted an aerial bombing attack on the Tammuz complex and destroyed it's main reactor and several of the surrounding buildings effectively halting Iraq’s plutonium extraction program. After the destruction of the Tammuz complex, Iraq moved towards the path of uranium enrichment. As a member of the NPT, Iraq was subject to inspections by the IAEA, but managed to secretly develop at least six weapons laboratories in the region of Tuwaitha. These labs were dedicated to the research and testing of cauldrons for electromagnetic separation of uranium isotopes; a process considered obsolete by most modern nuclear nations. The international community began to take notice of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs when Saddam Hussein ordered the use of chemical weapons during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, as well as on rebel Kurdish faction inside Iraq’s own borders.

In 1987, Iraq recruited a Yugoslavian firm to build an industrial level electromagnetic isotope separation facility that could produce thirty-three pounds of enriched uranium per year. The designs for the facility were also planned to be used to construct an Iraqi replica at a second location. In addition, Iraq also began research in gaseous diffusion methods for uranium enrichment. In 1990, just after Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait, Iraqi officials in charge of its secret weapons program were approached by a Pakistani representative of A.Q. Khan, who offered to sell Iraq centrifuge designs and assist in the construction of an enriched uranium atomic weapon. The asking price was 5 million dollars to be paid in advance. However, before the deal could take place, the Gulf war erupted. An International coalition force led by the United States defeated Saddam’s military and forced Iraq from Kuwait. After the conflict, Saddam was allowed to remain in power and he continued to defy IAEA inspectors and several United Nations Security Council resolutions. In 2002, the United States administration of George W. Bush claimed that Iraq was still developing Weapons of Mass Destruction and received approval from the U.S. congress to invade Iraq to disarm Saddam Hussein’s regime. The premise for this second war with Iraq proved to be false. Previous U.N. security resolutions, including strict inspections of nuclear facilities, and severe international economic sanctions, had effectively ended Iraq’s biological and nuclear weapons program by 1995.
(Spying on the Bomb by Jeffrey T. Richelson, pp. 318-324)
(The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor by William Langewiesche, pp. 148-149)

2004 | Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program

Currently, the most dangerous threat to the Non-Proliferation Regime in the Middle East is the nation of Iran. Iran has been governed by militant Islamic extremists known as the ‘Mullahs’ since the overthrow of a U.S. supported government in 1979. Iran has openly called for the destruction of Israel, and has historically funded and directed the terrorist organization of Hezbollah. Iran’s nuclear program was originally launched in the 1950’s, with the help of the United States. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the Mullah government temporarily disbanded the program and then revived it a few years later without direct assistance from Western governments. Since then, Iran has pursued a civil nuclear energy program despite the fact it holds one of the largest reserves of oil and natural gas in the world. As a member of the NPT, Iran has received nuclear technology from a variety of sources including the former Soviet Union, Russia, France, China, Germany and more recently Pakistan. In 1991, Deputy President Ayatollah Mohajerani declared, "If Israel should be allowed to have nuclear facilities, then Muslim states should be allowed to have the same." Since then, it is widely believed that Iran has been secretly developing nuclear weapons despite repeated claims that all of its nuclear programs are for peaceful purposes. The intellectual center of Iran’s nuclear program is The Nuclear Technology Center, located in Esfahan, which includes four small Chinese supplied research reactors and fuel fabrication laboratories for creating zirconium cladding used in fuel rods. The complex employs approximately three thousand scientists and is suspected to be Iran’s “Los Alamos”. The complex also contains a facility that converts uranium “yellow cake” into uranium hexafluoride – which is the first step in the uranium enrichment process. As of October 2004, the site was 70% operational. Despite diplomatic pressure from the United States, Russia agreed to complete and modify one of two light water nuclear reactors Iran had originally purchased from Germany before the Islamic Revolution. The reactor is capable of producing 1000 megawatts of electricity per year. The spent fuel rods from the reactor can annually yield as much as 550 pounds of weapons grade plutonium. In addition, Iran also began the development of other research reactors, two heavy water facilities and a heavy water production plant – all of which could be used to develop nuclear weapons.

In 2000, Iran also began a pilot uranium enrichment program in a highly secure and remote desert region known as Natanz. By 2003, over one hundred centrifuges at the pilot plant became operational and construction of a reinforced industrial scale enrichment plant was underway. When completed the plant will house over 50,000 centrifuges. In 2003, a U.N. probe into the facility revealed Iran’s centrifuges were based on the Urenco design Pakistan used to develop its nuclear weapons program. Subsequent inspections by IAEA at the Natanz site also revealed minute quantities of highly enriched uranium on some of the centrifuge components. Thereafter, Iran explained that many of centrifuge components were purchased on the black market. In 2004, both Pakistan and Iran finally admitted that Iran had obtained their centrifuge technology from A.Q. Khan. In December of 2006, the United Nations Security Council ordered Iran to suspend its enrichment program and answer a series questions based on information found on a laptop obtained from an Iranian scientist, that indicate Iran was working on a solution to integrate a nuclear weapon with the re-entry vehicle mounted on its medium-range ballistic missiles. In defiance Iran refused to cooperate with the United Nations, and by 2007 had over 1500 centrifuges in operation at its Natanz plant. Recent satellite imagery also shows the construction of a new large underground facility at that complex.
(Spying on the Bomb by Jeffrey T. Richelson, pp. 503-506)
(The New York Times: Report Finds Iran in Breach of U.N. Order by David E. Sanger and William J. Broad; February 22, 2007 (http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/04/iaea_iran_has_1.html)

2006 | North Korea's Bomb

The nation of North Korea was ruled by a military dictator, Kim Il-Sung, from the end of the Korean War until his death in July of 1994, When he was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Il. In late 1991 North and South Korea had signed the Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-aggression, Exchanges and Cooperation and the Joint Declaration on the Democratization of the Korean Peninsula. The agreement essentially provided that in return for the removal of United States nuclear weapons from South Korea, North Korea would not develop nuclear arms. As a closed society, with little or no political and economic relations with the West, North Korea had originally received most of its nuclear technology from the Soviet Union and China. In 1985, under international pressure, North Korea signed the NPT. However, at that time the regime refused to sign a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In 1992, North Korea finally signed the safeguards agreement, which gave the IAEA the authority to conduct inspections of its nuclear facilities. However, the regime then initially resisted inspections claiming the United States had not removed all its weapons from South Korea.

The center of North Korea’s nuclear activities is Yongbyon, located roughly 50 miles from the nation’s capital Pyongyang. By 1991, the Yongbyon complex included a Soviet built 5-megawatt research reactor and a 50-megawatt graphite moderated reactor under construction, which would be ideal for producing plutonium. Additional facilities at the site later included a spent fuel reprocessing facility, a fuel fabrication plant, and a radio-chemical laboratory. Between 1992 and 1993 North Korea did allow the IAEA to conduct inspections of facilities under construction at the Yongbyon complex and a new 200 megawatt nuclear reactor under construction at Taechon. In addition, it also provided documentation on its nuclear facilities and activities, which disclosed that North Korea had succeeded in producing small amounts of plutonium. IAEA inspections and reports suggested that North Korea was not disclosing all the facts of its nuclear activities. This included missing equipment from a reprocessing facility indicating it was partially hiding the facilities capabilities and recently installed power grids at reactors not connected to power lines indicating an attempt to hide the reactors true purpose.
(Spying on the Bomb by Jeffrey T. Richelson, pp. 517-521)
(http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/dprk/nuke/index.html)

Between 1993 and 2002, U.S. satellite imagery detected a variety of construction activities in North Korea that supported suspicions that it was hiding the true intent of its nuclear programs. This intelligence included the hurried construction of new waste sites before IAEA inspections took place in order to hide other waste sites that would provide evidence of plutonium production as well as the construction of underground tunnels and facilities at the Yongbyon site. In 1993, North Korea refused to allow the IAEA to conduct a special inspection of concealed but obvious nuclear waste sites at Yongbyon and threatened to leave the NPT. The US responded by holding high level talks with North Korea in early June 1993 that led to a joint statement outlining the basic principles for continued a dialogue and North Korea suspended its withdrawal from the NPT. In 1994, in defiance of U.S. warnings, North Korea unloaded the fuel rods from its five-megawatt nuclear reactor. Suspecting North Korea was attempting to reprocess the fuel to produce plutonium, the U.S. pushed for United Nations sanctions. President Carter visited North Korea that resulted in renewed talks in Geneva on July 8, 1994.

The sudden death of North Korean leader Kim Il Sung shortly thereafter delayed further talks until August, which then finally resulted with what was called the Agreed Framework. Under the new agreement, North Korea was supposed to freeze and eventually dismantle its suspected nuclear weapons program capabilities, including the 50 Megawatt and 200 MW graphite-moderated reactors under construction, as well as its existing 5 MW reactor and nuclear fuel reprocessing facility. In return, Pyongyang would be provided with alternative energy, initially in the form of oil, and the sale and eventual construction of two light water reactors (LWR) from South Korea that produced much less plutonium than graphite moderated reactors. Implementation of the agreement was then obstructed for by North Korea's refusal to accept South Korean-designed LWR model reactors. After more talks North Korea eventually agreed to accept the reactors designs.

On August 19th, 1997, North Korea held a groundbreaking ceremony to begin construction of the two light-water reactors. However, throughout the remainder of the decade, North Korea repeatedly continued refused, interfered with, or attempted to limit the extent of IAEA inspections to verify its compliance to the Agreed Framework. In addition to its suspected plutonium production program, North Korea also began seeking uranium enrichment technology. In 2001, evidence emerged that North Korea had begun building a uranium enrichment plant with assistance from Pakistan. In a state-to-state swap, allegedly negotiated by China years earlier, Pakistan had traded its uranium enrichment centrifuge technology and components developed by A.Q. Khan in return for North Korean designed ballistic missile systems. In October of 2002, North Korean officials acknowledged the existence of a clandestine program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons that was in violation of the Agreed Framework and the NPT.
(Spying on the Bomb by Jeffrey T. Richelson, pp. 521-525)

In January of 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT and publicly claimed it had reprocessed several thousand fuel rods and successfully produced nuclear weapons. The regime then threatened to conduct a test of a nuclear device and to export nuclear weapons technology unless the United States and the international community provided, and paid for, oil shipments, food aid, economic benefits and the construction of nuclear power plants. In August 2003, The international community established the the Six-Party as a multilateral approach to ending North Korea’s nuclear program. The Six participating states of the talks were the People's Republic of China, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), the United States of America, the Russian Federation and Japan. Five rounds of talks have taken place from 2003 to 2007. In the fifth round of talks, North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear weapons program in exchange for fuel aid and steps towards the normalization of relations with the United States and Japan.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-party_talks)
(http://www.cfr.org/publication/13593)

By this time, it had become obvious to most experts that North Korea’s commitments were notoriously unreliable and negotiations continued to falter. On October 9, 2006, North Korea announced it had conducted an underground test of a small nuclear weapon in North Hamkyung province region. Initial estimates on the yield of the explosion ranged from under 1 kiloton up to 15 kilotons. On October 16, 2006, the Office of the Director of U.S. National Intelligence announced that analysis of air-samples over the suspect area had confirmed that the event had in fact been an underground nuclear detonation and that the "explosion yield was less than a kiloton." Despite the limited success of the test, North Korea had defined for the world, once again, how a small poor nation could acquire nuclear weapons within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Regime. On May 26th, 2009 North Korea conducted a second test of an atomic weapon. The underground detonation has been estimated by experts to be between a 10-20 kiloton explosion; nearly the equivalent of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War Two.
(Spying on the Bomb by Jeffrey T. Richelson, pp. 530-535)
(http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/07/18/nkorea.iaea)
(http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2002/14432.htm)
(http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/dprk/nuke/index.html)
(http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/dprk/nuke-test.htm)
(http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/25/north-korea-hiroshima-nuclear-test)

The spread of nuclear weapons technology to corrupt, unstable or militant nations such as North Korea, Pakistan and Iran is threatening to erode the Non Proliferation Regime. Long standing animosities among neighboring nations such as those that exist between North Korea and South Korea, Taiwan and China, and Japan with China and North Korea could encourage further proliferation of nuclear weapons in that region. If North Korea continues to develop a nuclear arsenal then South Korea might be inclined to acquire a similar capability to deter aggression from the North. This could then result in other nations of the region doing the same. Japan is one of the most technologically advance nations in the world and has both the capability and ample supplies of nuclear material from their civil nuclear programs to develop nuclear weapons. Japan’s constitution, installed after World War II, currently prohibits the development of nuclear weapons. However, if nearby adversaries have nuclear arsenals, Japan may also decide they must acquire them. This is what is known as the ‘Nuclear Tipping Point’. Furthermore, regional proliferation could then further influence nations in other hostile regions to pursue a nuclear capability. In addition, to national security reasons, many smaller nations may decide to acquire nuclear arms programs to blackmail the international community for political recognition and economic aid. While North Korea is the best example of this, other nations such as Libya and Iran have used, or are using, the threat of nuclear arms programs as a negotiating tool on the international stage.
(Bomb Scare by Joseph Cirincione, pp. 63-65)

Ironically, the most recent threat to the Non-Proliferation Regime is the foreign policy that has been conducted by the United States under the administration of George W. Bush. The Bush administration is largely comprised of officials that believe the Non-Proliferation regime is actually harmful to U.S. security interests. They argue that the negotiation and implementation of the non-proliferation treaties, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, has restricted U.S. Military supremacy and as a result weakened the nation’s ability to ensure global peace and security. This view has resulted in a new U.S. foreign policy of ‘Counter Proliferation’ against perceived security threats. After the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, President Bush acquired unprecedented executive power to conduct a preemptive war against Iraq, claiming it had connections with Al Qaeda and was developing nuclear weapons. After the invasion both of these claims were proven completely false . Iraq’s programs to develop Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and its ties with Al Qaeda simply did not exist. While the Bush administration was engaged in the invasion of Iraq, there is evidence that U.S. ally Pakistan under Pervez Musharraf, was still quietly selling nuclear weapons technology to Iran and North Korea.

The U.S. war in Iraq has had a profoundly negative impact on the international community’s perception of the United States and its role as a global peacekeeper. Many nations that have historically adversarial relations with the U.S., such as Iran, may now believe they must acquire nuclear weapons to deter American Imperialism. In addition to these negative influences on world peace, the Bush administration has also initiated several other components of its Counter-Proliferation doctrine including the development of new Anti-Ballistic Missile systems in direct violation to the ABM treaty and new tactical nuclear weapons designed for use in conventional warfare. Both of these initiatives have been seen as a direct contradiction to U.S. initiated policies for non-proliferation.

The NPT framework not only requires non-nuclear members to forgo the development of nuclear weapons – it also requires recognized that the nuclear powers eventually abolish their own nuclear arsenals. Many nations see current U.S. domestic and foreign policies as hypocritical and in violation of the NPT. Perhaps even more damaging to the Non-Proliferation Regime is the United States recent agreement to export nuclear technology to India – a nation who is not a member of the NPT. Under the agreement, India will become eligible to purchase dual-use nuclear technology from the United States, including materials and equipment that can be used to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium for nuclear weapons. It would also receive nuclear fuel for its nuclear reactors. This directly undermines the cornerstone of NPT, which forbids nations to share nuclear technology with nations who are not members of the treaty. Nevertheless, on July 18, 2007, President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed the deal…and perhaps signaled the beginning of the end of the Non-Proliferation Regime. It is highly unlikely that other members of the NPT will continue to abide by the treaty provisions if its founding member blatantly disregards them.
(Bomb Scare by Joseph Cirincione, pp. 111-123)
(http://www.cfr.org/publication/9663/)

2009 | The Terror Bomb

The proliferation of nuclear weapons to unstable nations like Pakistan, North Korea and Iran poses serious threats beyond the state sponsored sale of nuclear technology. The prospect of nuclear weapons being acquired by a terrorist organization is much more frightening. Small nuclear nations, even those considered to be on the fringe of international law, are not likely to actually use nuclear weapons to achieve political or military objectives because they are keenly aware that they themselves would risk terrible retribution. Instead, these nations want nuclear weapons as a tool to deter regional adversaries and to achieve their geopolitical goals and a higher level of international status. In addition, poor nations most likely see their nuclear arsenals as the crown jewels of security for their country and are not likely to use them except as a last resort in the face of extinction. However, a terrorist organization has no borders to protect or populated cities that could be targets of nuclear retaliation. While most terrorist groups primarily have local political objectives and therefore no desire to obtain such weapons, the aspirations of some terror organizations are much broader and extreme. Two prime examples of such groups are Al Qaeda, which carried out the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001 on the United States and the Japanese cult Aun Shinrikyo that carried out a nerve gas attack on a Japanese subway. Both of these groups carried out large-scale terror attacks for purely ideological reasons. Terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda seek to cause apocalyptic destruction to bring about change on a global scale. Even prior to their infamous attacks, both Al Qaeda and Aun Shinrikyo had already attempted to acquire nuclear weapons.
(Bomb Scare by Joseph Cirincione, pp. 91-94)

In August of 2001, just prior to the Sept. 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, Al Qaeda’s enigmatic leader Osama Bin Laden held a series of secret meetings with two senior Pakistani nuclear physicists in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Pakistani scientists answered detailed questions about nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and at one meeting, an associate of Bin Laden’s indicated he had nuclear materials and wanted to know how to use it to make a bomb. While terrorist would undoubtedly prefer to acquire an intact nuclear weapon than to construct one, even rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran would consider a nuclear weapon much too precious to sell or give to a terrorist organization. They would also be highly reluctant to risk being connected to such a transaction and be blamed for a surrogate role in a nuclear attack. It is also unlikely that a terrorist group could steal a usable nuclear weapon since such weapons are stored in fortified facilities and are heavily guarded. Modern nuclear weapons also require several steps to remove safeguards and electronic locks which make them nearly impossible to arm by an unauthorized individual. However, some reports indicate this may have occurred.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, rumors surfaced suggesting organized crime had penetrated post Soviet nuclear forces and stole a quantity of portable “suitcase bombs” which had been built for the KGB during the cold war. The existence of these weapons has never been officially confirmed. Luckily, sophisticated nuclear weapons require regular maintenance, and therefore, if suitcase bombs had been sold into a nuclear black market during that time, they are probably no longer functional. In addition, if a terrorist group had taken possession of a “suitcase bomb” during that time, it most likely would have already been used. Instead, it is much more likely that terrorists would attempt to obtain the fissile material available from a variety of sources to construct a crude bomb of their own. It takes only about 25 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) or 8 kilograms of plutonium to make a small modern military nuclear weapon. However, a crude bomb of primitive design would require nearly 100 pounds of highly enriched uranium. Currently, there is enough fissionable material spread throughout the world to make nearly 300,000 small crude atomic bombs.

Over 1,850 metric tons of highly enriched uranium and plutonium now exists at civil nuclear facilities around the world. Nine countries have at least one metric ton of highly enriched uranium and 32 countries have at least one metric ton of plutonium. The materials at these non-military facilities, which are used for nuclear power, research and medical purposes, are not well guarded and might provide a source for terrorists to acquire the material necessary to make a bomb. In most cases however, the materials at these civil facilities are separated in small quantities and also pose the problem of usually being highly radioactive. Nevertheless, a determined terrorist has a wide range of choices to acquire bomb material. One of the most attractive sources may be regions of the former Soviet Union and/or its black markets.

At the end of the Cold War, a wide variety of nuclear materials including the world’s largest supply of weapons grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium was scattered about in various secret “Nuclear Cities” in Russia and former Soviet territories. This included Kazakhstan, which was subsequently assisted by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) under the U.S. Department of Energy to abandon and remove 1,400 strategic nuclear warheads and 104 ballistic missiles. This arsenal would have made Kazakhstan the world’s third largest nuclear power. Since 1990, the IAEA has reported at least seventeen officially reported cases of the illegal trafficking of plutonium of HEU bomb grade materials in Russia and former Soviet States. During 2007 alone, the United States spent approximately 1.7 billion dollars in the former Soviet Union to inventory, secure and in many cases purchase nuclear weapons related materials. In Russia, there are ten nuclear production cities containing all kinds of nuclear weapons related materials including warheads in various stages of assembly and several hundred tons of pure weapons grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium. In addition to the NNSA, experts of the Nuclear Threat Initiative NTI, founded by former U.S. Senator, Sam Nunn, and media mogul, Ted Turner, have been employed to secure nuclear materials in Russia and its former territories. However, despite these efforts, the amount of relatively unsecured weapons grade nuclear material in the former Soviet Union is still staggering. Security at many of these nuclear sites is dangerously lax and there are also thousands of former unemployed Soviet nuclear physicists and engineers from the Cold War era. The combination of vast stores of nuclear material spread out in these isolated locations makes Russia and it’s former territories an ideal target for terrorist seeking to steal or purchase materials to construct a bomb.
(Bomb Scare by Joseph Cirincione, pp. 94-96)
(The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor by William Langewiesche, pp. 20-45)

Given a choice, a terrorist organization would probably not pursue plutonium to construct a nuclear weapon. While a plutonium bomb has the advantage of needing much less material than a uranium bomb and can therefore be miniaturized, it requires an implosion type design to produce an explosion. Implosion designs require highly sophisticated engineering and complex explosive lenses that would be very difficult to build for a small team of people in a secret location, even if they were well funded. In addition, plutonium is so radioactive that even minute amounts can be lethal if inhaled, ingested or absorbed into the body through the skin. The highly radioactive nature of plutonium requires large amounts of protective shielding, making it difficult to transport and even more difficult to work with. Uranium however is much more forgiving. Radiation levels of freshly manufactured HEU are so mild; it can be handled without protection without any adverse affects and can pass through a radiation detector with only minimal shielding.

The engineering required to build a uranium fission bomb is relatively simple. Highly enriched uranium achieves a critical mass that causes an explosion by joining together two quantities of the same material at high speeds in what is known as a “gun” or “cannon design” and is almost as simple to make as the name implies. By firing a bullet of highly enriched uranium at roughly the muzzle velocity of a rifle into a target sphere of highly enriched uranium, a chain reaction will nearly always occur. In fact, if U235 did not randomly eject stray neutrons that can interfere with the fission process, it would not even be necessary to join the two separate pieces of highly enriched uranium at high speed. One could simply drop a brick of highly enriched uranium onto another brick of highly enriched uranium and an atomic explosion would occur. To create a working uranium bomb a terrorist organization needs only a small team of experts, which would include a physicist, or an engineer with an understanding of physics, an explosives expert, and a machinist. The construction of a bomb could be accomplished in a few weeks in a small machine shop with commonly available precision tools and roughly 100 pounds of highly enriched uranium. Due to the amount of uranium required, the device would be about the size of an oil drum. Terrorists have consistently demonstrated their ability to deploy large explosive devices in attacks around the world. A crude bomb could be deployed in a suicide mission against a city on a privately chartered aircraft, as a car bomb or delivered to a port by ship in one of the thousands of containers that are currently not checked by customs officials.
(The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor by William Langewiesche, pp. 20-45, 66-69)

On August 23, 2003, a suitcase containing nuclear material was shipped from Jakarta, Indonesia, an area known for Al Qaeda activity, to Los Angeles in a cargo container. After arrival, the container was picked up by a local trucking company and delivered the cargo to a warehouse a mile from the Los Angeles Convention Center. Luckily, the suitcase contained depleted uranium and the shipment was only a test conducted by ABC News reporter Brian Ross. The depleted uranium Ross used had nearly the same radioactive signature and similar physical characteristics to highly enriched uranium. The depleted uranium was packed inside a lead lined pipe, placed into an ordinary suitcase and sent with furniture and other common items via a freight forwarding company found in the yellow pages. The shipping company delivered the container for loading, and upon pickup, did not ask any questions about it contents. The container was then shipped to the U.S., and upon arrival passed a routine X-Ray scan. When the container arrived to the warehouse, it still had its seal intact indicating that it was never opened. Currently, over 2,000,000 shipping containers pass through U.S. ports every year at an average of 20,000 per day. At this rate, U.S. customs officials can only physically inspect a very small percent of the number of containers entering the country. As the ABC news test illustrated, current inspection methods failed to detect the uranium. Had the shipping container contained a real atomic bomb, it would have reached its destination. The frightening reality is that this scenario is not only possible – it may be inevitable.
(Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe by Graham Allison, pp. 104-109)

Mankind now faces the most serious dilemma in the history of civilization. Like a genie from a bottle, the atom is now completely out of control. Despite the hope of its original promise, the atom has mostly delivered death, destruction, global ecological contamination and international political strife. As a military weapon the atom is useless except to destroy oneself. As a source of energy it has proven to be hazardous and expensive. The waste by-products of the atom are so lethal they cannot be managed effectively. For over fifty years it has threatened humanity with extinction in the hands of world leaders and now it may threaten millions of innocent people in the hands of terrorists. Whether in the hands of nations or terrorist, the atom makes no distinction between good or evil, and has already killed men, women and children alike without remorse or reservation.

Despite all the warning signs and the dangerous implications of our ongoing affair with the atom, modern civilization continues to embrace it. When the power of the atom was first released, our world’s greatest minds, including Albert Einstein, warned us that despite our best efforts, the atom would be impossible to control. To our folly, and perhaps our end, we did not listen to them, or, did not believe them. Now, we can only recall the immortal words quoted by Robert Oppenheimer from the Bagavagita, when he witnessed the first world’s first atomic explosion at the Trinity test in 1945…

…”Now I have become death…The destroyer of worlds.”