Of the 15 terrorism and natural disaster scenarios used by the Department of Homeland Security for planning purposes, the first scenario is the most feared: Terrorists detonate a 10-kiloton improvised nuclear device at ground level in the National Mall in Washington at 10 a.m. on a weekday morning.
Month: April 2010
This month, the Obama administration has greatly accelerated its efforts to reduce nuclear dangers and move all nations toward “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” as President Barack Obama phrased it during his now famous Prague speech.
Two weeks ago, on the very day that the breakthrough in the new START arms control negotiations was announced, Ohio Republican Rep. Michael Turner posted to his website three letters from the directors of the country’s nuclear weapon laboratories expressing doubts in the viability of the programs that maintain U.S. warheads.
I first realized the power of intranasal drug delivery after reading a 2005 paper in Nature entitled “Oxytocin Increases Trust in Humans.” In it, the authors–several psychologists, neuroscientists, and economists–reported on a study based on a game that pitted two players against each other–an investor and a trustee. (You may be wondering what this has to do with oxytocin, a neuropeptide involved in mammalian social behaviour, but bear with me!) The investor has the option of donating his money to the trustee.
President Barack Obama’s upcoming Nuclear Security Summit has the potential to become a defining moment for international security in the twenty-first century, especially after the recent release of the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review. When he introduced this document, Obama said, “For the first time, preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism is at the top of America’s nuclear agenda.”
One year ago, President Barack Obama made a bold pledge to “secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world within four years.” His immediate follow-through, however, has been wanting. For instance, his fiscal year 2010 budget request to meet this goal was actually $200 million less than what the Bush administration allocated a year earlier for securing nuclear material abroad. In fact, the administration still hasn’t defined what it actually considers vulnerable nuclear material. So, in essence, Obama has lost a full calendar year in his four-year quest.
After repeated delays, the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review–just the third such effort since the end of the Cold War–is finished. This document has been by far the most anticipated of its kind. Judging by occasional reports, it has been extensively coordinated and worked over–the hallmarks of a high-priority policy document.
To a large degree, the implementation of robust nuclear security depends on the availability of qualified and dedicated specialists. Unfortunately, such nuclear security specialists are in short supply and training programs for the next generation are limited as well.
A few weeks ago, an anti-nuclear group breached security fencing at the Kleine Brogel Air Base in Belgium. Undetected, the group spent more than an hour on a military base where U.S. nuclear weapons are supposedly stored. Worse yet, they then uploaded to YouTube a video showing exactly how they exploited Kleine Brogel’s security weaknesses.
Replace peace activists with terrorists and the results could be devastating.