Opinion Piece: An American Hiroshima
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  1. #1
    Just a Virtualized Geek MrLinus's Avatar
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    Opinion Piece: An American Hiroshima

    9/11 and the original bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaka (I'm not old enough to have be around but do admit to feeling queasy about the effects afterwards) were bad enough. I don't know if I want to be around if this particular situation happened. More importantly, what if they chose somewhere other than NYC? What about London or Washington, D.C.? Heck, Toronto even.

    Terrorism is about inflicting fear on society. Me thinks they are often doing a good job of it.

    Source: Spiegel Online

    An American Hiroshima
    By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
    OP-ED COLUMNIST

    Published: August 11, 2004

    ASPEN, Colo. — If a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon, a midget even smaller than the one that destroyed Hiroshima, exploded in Times Square, the fireball would reach tens of millions of degrees Fahrenheit.

    It would vaporize or destroy the theater district, Madison Square Garden, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal and Carnegie Hall (along with me and my building). The blast would partly destroy a much larger area, including the United Nations. On a weekday some 500,000 people would be killed.

    Could this happen?

    Unfortunately, it could - and many experts believe that such an attack, somewhere, is likely. The Aspen Strategy Group, a bipartisan assortment of policy mavens, focused on nuclear risks at its annual meeting here last week, and the consensus was twofold: the danger of nuclear terrorism is much greater than the public believes, and our government hasn't done nearly enough to reduce it.

    Graham Allison, a Harvard professor whose terrifying new book, "Nuclear Terrorism," offers the example cited above, notes that he did not pluck it from thin air. He writes that on Oct. 11, 2001, exactly a month after 9/11, aides told President Bush that a C.I.A. source code-named Dragonfire had reported that Al Qaeda had obtained a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon and smuggled it into New York City.

    The C.I.A. found the report plausible. The weapon had supposedly been stolen from Russia, which indeed has many 10-kiloton weapons. Russia is reported to have lost some of its nuclear materials, and Al Qaeda has mounted a determined effort to get or make such a weapon. And the C.I.A. had picked up Al Qaeda chatter about an "American Hiroshima."

    President Bush dispatched nuclear experts to New York to search for the weapon and sent Dick Cheney and other officials out of town to ensure the continuity of government in case a weapon exploded in Washington instead. But to avoid panic, the White House told no one in New York City, not even Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

    Dragonfire's report was wrong, but similar reports - that Al Qaeda has its hands on a nuclear weapon from the former Soviet Union - have regularly surfaced in the intelligence community, even though such a report has never been confirmed. We do know several troubling things: Al Qaeda negotiated for a $1.5 million purchase of uranium (apparently of South African origin) from a retired Sudanese cabinet minister; its envoys traveled repeatedly to Central Asia to buy weapons-grade nuclear materials; and Osama bin Laden's top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, boasted, "We sent our people to Moscow, to Tashkent, to other Central Asian states, and they negotiated, and we purchased some suitcase [nuclear] bombs."

    Professor Allison offers a standing bet at 51-to-49 odds that, barring radical new antiproliferation steps, a terrorist nuclear strike will occur somewhere in the world in the next 10 years. So I took his bet. If there is no such nuclear attack by August 2014, he owes me $5.10. If there is an attack, I owe him $4.90.

    I took the bet because I don't think the odds of nuclear terror are quite as great as he does. If I were guessing wildly, I would say a 20 percent risk over 10 years. In any case, if I lose the bet, then I'll probably be vaporized and won't have much use for money.

    Unfortunately, plenty of smart people think I've made a bad bet. William Perry, the former secretary of defense, says there is an even chance of a nuclear terror strike within this decade - that is, in the next six years.

    "We're racing toward unprecedented catastrophe," Mr. Perry warns. "This is preventable, but we're not doing the things that could prevent it."

    That is what I find baffling: an utter failure of the political process. The Bush administration responded aggressively on military fronts after 9/11, and in November 2003, Mr. Bush observed, "The greatest threat of our age is nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in the hands of terrorists, and the dictators who aid them." But the White House has insisted on tackling the most peripheral elements of the W.M.D. threat, like Iraq, while largely ignoring the central threat, nuclear proliferation. The upshot is that the risk that a nuclear explosion will devastate an American city is greater now than it was during the cold war, and it's growing.

    In my next column, I'll explain how we can reduce the risk of an American Hiroshima.
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    That's a scary thought... One time I am very glad I live in the midwest.
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    Just a Virtualized Geek MrLinus's Avatar
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    One time I am very glad I live in the midwest.
    I wouldn't make that assumption. While getting "more" is probably part of their goal, terror and fear are the first part. Oklahoma is a good example of terror hitting an area other than a big, major city. What better way to strike fear than to hit where it's not expected. People will be even more paranoid then.
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    The problem about develop wide destruction weapons is sometime your enemy will have the same weapons as you.
    As USA is the only major nation in the world (speaking about army/weapons), what about USA propose that everybody destroy all nuke weapons (USA including) and revert again to regular war?
    Although building an atomic bond is "easy", those guys cant make one without the proper tecnology, that inst avaliable on store next door. They can get one :
    1) stealing components
    2) stealing a complete bomb
    3) buying a complete bomb
    Options 2 and 3 are worldwide available (Russia, China, Israel, Pasquitan, India)
    If nobody produce bomb and/or components, no one will have one. easy, isnt it?
    But USA, despite having a huge arsenal of "regular weapons", still wants to keep its nuclear weapons.
    Lets offer other example: instead thinking about Al-qaeda, what about the USA terrorist (home made ones)?
    I think they have more chances to get one (maybe from USA arsenal) than those crazy Al-qaeda guys.

    Please dont compare 9/11(a tragedy) with Hiroshima/Nagazaki bombing. Its not the same subject and are uncomparable.
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    Just a Virtualized Geek MrLinus's Avatar
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    Please dont compare 9/11(a tragedy) with Hiroshima/Nagazaki bombing. Its not the same subject and are uncomparable.
    It wasn't meant as a comparison between the two but rather a comment on the destruction that man can do for a variety of reasons (whether the goal is to achieve terror or submission, the end result is often the same: death and destruction).
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  6. #6
    Senior Member RoadClosed's Avatar
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    other than a big, major city
    Oklahoma City is no tiny potato. Not New York but decently a half million people not including the entire metro area. Can you picture a well placed bomb in a closet here ? A janitor bringing in a large trashcan in the middle of the night and placing it in room 7 on the 20th floor?
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  7. #7
    Keep in mind these guys are smart, and strategic. Striking at a small, remote, low-populated area isn't out of the question either. The idea is that if they did so, they'd get the message across that nowhere is safe. You can go the big city, you can go to the remote farm lands, but they'll still get you, hence striking terror. That's the goal. So we need to keep our guard up on all fronts and assume nothing.

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    They blow up my town, they wouldn't kill 1000 people. I think that would be quite a waste of a nuke. If they did ANYTHING around me, they would blow up Whiteman AFB, where the B2 Bomber is housed. I live about 15-20 miles from there, so if we ever get in a nuke war with another county, I will die quite quickly. That sounds much more fun than a life not worth living as a slave or with radiation sickness.
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    Senior Member RoadClosed's Avatar
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    cacosapo, those parts aren't necessary. The only component need is a nuclear reactor. These component everyone speaks of are for air delivery of the payload involving avionics etc. You wouldn't want the bomb to go off on the launch pad or airplane so componenty are needed to arm and detonate the bomb. All that is really needed are:

    1. Some decent *nium (uraniam etc) or some other matter of potential fissionable magnitude
    2. A detonator
    3. A target

    Ok so how does one make a nuclear detonator? All you have to do is keep two pieces of fissionable material below critical mass and then bring them together very fast. It's popular to use a gun chanber to do this. Another way is the "soccer ball" principle using implossion for detonation. That was used in a movie back in the 80 or early 90s called the Manhattan project or something. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaka were very simple. No "advanced" components were needed, in fact they weren't even tested before deployment. Just two clumps of Uranium and a gun barrel type detonator.

    Our saving factor so far has been the ability to handle weapons safely. This has been the limiting factor so far. There are other advanced methods of detonation which provides for the massive weaponry we stockpile but all that is needed for mass destruction is about 16 kg of uraniam at 88 percent mass and a detonator you can make at a hardware store.

    //EDIT Here I drew one up based on the design of FatMan and LittleBoy, the bombs used in WW2 (in the name of science) assuming it get's uploaded.
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  10. #10
    (Briefly off topic)

    That was used in a movie back in the 80 or early 90s called the Manhattan project or something.
    Wasn't that the movie about the Navy ship in which the men ended up welded into the steel because of an Einstein time travel/teleportation mishap or something (and based on a "true" story!)? That's what I've heard, been wanting to see it. The real event is a REALLY interesting story.

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