Sunday, May 29, 2005

Defusing Nuclear Terror

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Excel web sharing - spreadsheet collaboration over the Internet made easy with BadBlueHighly interesting -- and nerve-wracking -- reading from the Bureau of Atomic Scientists regarding the history of nuclear terror threats and the founding of the Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST). the summer of 1972, the terrorist group Black September seized, and ultimately murdered, nine members of the Israeli Olympic team. Among those who became seriously concerned over the prospect of nuclear terrorism was James Schlesinger, then chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). He held a series of meetings exploring whether terrorists could steal plutonium and make a bomb with it, whether they could steal a bomb, and whether the United States would be able to locate it. In 1974, while those issues were being considered and investigated, the FBI received a note demanding that $200,000 be left at a particular location in Boston or a nuclear device would be detonated somewhere in the city. This note was not part of an exercise, but the real thing (New York Times Magazine, December 14, 1980).

William Chambers, a Los Alamos nuclear physicist who was studying the detection issue, was instructed by the AEC and FBI to assemble the best team he could and head for Boston to search the city. The operation reflected its ad hoc origins. The group rented a fleet of mail vans to carry concealed equipment that could detect the emissions of a plutonium or uranium weapon. But the team found that they did not have the necessary drills to install the detectors in the vans. NEST field director Jerry Doyle recalled, "If they were counting on us to save the good folk of Boston . . . well, it was bye-bye Boston." ...

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Defusing nuclear terror

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