by J. Vanne
Suitcase nukes? Good idea to be cautious, but they probably don’t exist. While there are reports Iran got some wayward nukes when the USSR went the way of all socialist dystopias, and some Russians like Alexander Lebed or Stanislav Lunev have said they exist, as well as 60 minutes, the fact of the matter is that they have not been used by terrorist groups (this doesn’t mean Russia does not have them, of course) when these jihadist (and similar) groups have had every reason to (fall of Afghanistan, killing of OBL, etc.).
Vahid Majidi, Ass’t Dir. of the FBI’s WMD Directorate has stated “No one has been able to truly identify the existence of these devices,” and while eternal vigilance certainly warranted, an emphasis on this issue would take, IMHO, away from a much more realistic threat, such as an EMP attack from a cargo ship (Iran has tested launching missiles from ships in the Caspian, and the Russian Club K container ship missile system is truly frightening – see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6dKCkv1fzs, if it got in the wrong hands.
The US has made some portable “suitcase nukes” (if the bad guys choose to use one, let’s hope they use the USPS instead of Fedex, in which case they will never get delivered), called Special Atomic Demolition Munition (“special” indeed!), which could possibly be lugged on someone’s back, but would take two people to place. This was also a long time ago. They can now be seen in museums, it is reported. The issue, per Russian Colonel-General Victor Yesin, is that the components would decompose too quickly. According to Majidi, who joined the FBI after leading the chemistry division of Los Alamos National Laboratory, a suitcase nuke would be about 24” x 10” by 12”, and about 50 lbs. if plutonium were used. If uranium were used, it would be 100 pounds or so heavier (it would take around 22 lbs of plutonium, or 130 lbs of uranium for one of these suckers, plus conventional explosives and other materials). To get the plutonium, there would probably have to be cooperation with a country which would leave “chemical fingerprints” of a government. Moreover, we are talking 22 pounds of plutonium. Not a tiny amount! More likely, this suitcase nuke would have to be at least refrigerator size, if not SUV size.
Some more problems: The more compact the device, the more frequently they need to be maintained, as the radiation around this compact device damages everything over a period of time, according to Majidi. So, if these devices did exist and came from the Russians, they have been sitting for at least 15 years. Try THAT with your car, let alone a suitcase nuke. Of course, a dirty nuke is MUCH easier, and would create the same kind of panic, even if not the same kind of Kim Kardashian-level publicity these jihadist nut-jobs want. (Breaking news! Kim Kardashian files for 15th divorce! See page 1. In other news today, Kansas City disappeared behind a mushroom cloud…..)
In sum, they probably don’t exist, and if they do, they aren’t suitcase sized. Also, if they had them, they would have used them already. And finally, if they existed they would have decomposed by now.
Here’s my suggestion: If terrorists want to destroy America, why not hire Jon Corzine or Steve Rattner, or similar? Just put them in a tiny bank, like George Bailey’s bank in It’s a Wonderful Life. Even their presence at a tiny bank like that could do more destruction, IMHO, than anything Achminejad could throw at us!