Bob Farquhar: Importing Disaster
Sunday’s Macon Telegraph article about security at the Port of Savannah caught my attention with its mention of radiation detectors used to “sniff out nuclear bombs.” The only problem with that assertion is that a nuclear bomb inside a shipping container filled with kitty litter would not be detected. Kitty litter has trace amounts of uranium and thorium which mirror the signature of weapons-grade highly-enriched uranium. As well, the amount of HEU needed for a nuclear weapon is smaller than a shoebox and could be hidden in a section of metal pipe where it would not be detected, no matter how sensitive the detector.
During a Senate hearing in the 1950s, Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the nuclear bomb, was asked if there wasn’t some instrument to detect the smuggling of a nuclear bomb. He responded, “Yes, a screwdriver to open every single crate.” President Obama has stated that nuclear terrorism is “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security.” The only sure way to prevent nuclear terrorism is to secure fissile material globally.
Under the Cooperative Threat Reduction program initiated by Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn and Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar in 1992, great strides have been made in securing nuclear weapons and material in post-Soviet nations. That work continues although funding has been reduced by Congress.
The Nuclear Threat Initiative, headed by Sen. Nunn and Ted Turner, also works to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Much has been accomplished, but much more remains to be done. Both the CTR and NTI need continued public support and funding if we are to stop to possibility of nuclear terrorism before it enters our ports.
This letter to the editor originally appeared in the Macon Telegraph Friday, August 19, 2011.
Robert B. Farquhar is a retired Air Force master sergeant who served the United States for over twenty-four years. During his service he studied the effects of nuclear warfare and was trained as a fallout shelter manager. He an anti-nuclear activist in Georgia and a prolific writer, with many op-eds published and his book "Duck and Cover" is in the publishing process now. Bob lives in Bonaire with his partner, Beth