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2 Homeland Security Forum Responses
1. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there was a flood of weapons on the world stage. Russia began research and development in the 1960's to miniaturize their nuclear weapons. With the Soviet Union dissolving a lot of these "suitcase" nukes were unaccounted for. Per Quora.com, "The possibly missing suitcase nukes were particularly troubling. They were small (30 - 50 kilograms), easily portable, had a yield of half a kiloton to 2 kilotons and lacked the safeguards to prevent accidental or unauthorized detonation that other Russian nuclear weapons had. Who controlled the weapons was also troubling: they were variously described as being controlled by Soviet Special Forces or the KGB. (Warinner , 2012)" The article later mentions that, "Loose Russian nukes are not really the big worry of governments now; nuclear materials like plutonium, enriched uranium and other radioactive materials are more worrying. (Warinner, 2012)." This is concerning in relation to North Korea. It is not a secret that North Korea and the former Soviet Union have had a relationship and that the Soviet Union has been supportive of the efforts of North Korean leadership...the big question is how supportive have they been and how much/if any nuclear material/assets have been provided to North Korea.
North Korea was always rattling their saber to demonstrate their power, but with their lack of resources, and know how, it's hard to say how viable the threat is from them. Terrorist on the other hand are a wild card. As mentioned earlier, there are concerns with a terrorist organization getting ahold of nuclear material, but I feel that it would be used in an RDD rather than a full up, viable nuclear weapon. The footprint that this process would create would be extremely difficult to conceal and carry out. In our reading in discusses the "small" (one to four kilograms (FAS n.d)) amount of radioactive material necessary to manufacture a nuclear weapon, but this is still fissile material, and not something that can be kept concealed very easily.
In conclusion, seeing the difficulties that North Korea has faced in developing their nuclear weapons program, I feel that a viable nuclear weapon isn't as attractive to a terrorist organization as an RDD would be.
Warinner, A. (Sep 2012) How many nuclear weapons were unaccounted for after the collapse of the Soviet Union? Retrieved from: https://www.quora.com/How-many-nuclear-weapons-were-unaccounted-for-after-the-collapse-of-the-Soviet-Union
FAS (n.d.) Nuclear Weapon Design. Retrieved from: http://www.fas.org/nuke/intro/nuke/design.htm
2. Based on the articles assigned this week, the current threat of nuclear weapons being acquired and used in a terrorist attack is low for several reasons. The Department of Defense defines a nuclear weapon as "a complete assembly (i.e., implosion type, gun type, or thermonuclear type), in its intended ultimate configuration which, upon completion of the prescribed arming, fusing, and firing sequence, is capable of producing the intended nuclear reaction and release of energy." (Joint Publication 3-11)
Nuclear weapons and material are very hard to acquire and have intense security. Although more countries around the world continue to develop their own nuclear weapon capabilities, it is very unlikely for a country to give nuclear weapons or materials to a terrorist organization. To give a terrorist organization nuclear capabilities is not only very dangerous because terrorists do not abide by any laws or treaties, but is also likely to force a war with opposing countries. There are signed treaties that prevent nuclear proliferation and testing.
The United States has so many different organizations within the Intelligence Community, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Energy that have dedicated units both home and overseas locking down and securing nuclear materials. The United States has an overall mindset, that if we possess nuclear weapons there is a chance that a terrorist organization can too. This is in large due to the rhetoric of our policy makers and media. Although they are trying to take preventive measures, they make terrorist organizations seem more deadly than what they truly are. If everything is a threat, then nothing is a threat.
I think that terrorist trying to achieve nuclear weapons is too hard and is not cost effective. Take for example DAESH right now. They can barely hold their stronghold of Mosul, Iraq and for them to effectively provide logistics, finances and the manpower needed to acquire and build a nuclear weapon is unlikely. They are going to resort to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), vehicle-borne IEDs (VBIEDs), small arms fire and tunnels to continue their operations.
Huessy, P. (2013). Nuclear Zero: World Peace or World Chaos. Family Security Matters, 8.
Wilner, A. S. (2012). Apocalypse Soon? Deterring Nuclear Iran and its Terrorist. Proxies. Comparative Strategy, 31 (1)