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Le Temps, Switzerland, 11/30/2007
Increased nuclear proliferation makes a dirty bomb attack more likely

William Nye, the top counter terrorism official at the British Interior Ministry:
“Al Qaeda is actively looking for highly enriched uranium and for plutonium, in order to trigger a dirty bomb in a big city, such as London or Washington”


I- Acquiring nuclear material:

1- Theft and loss:

a) Example:
3 men were arrested [on 11/28/07] in Slovakia and in Hungary:
they were carrying 1 kilo [about 2.2 pounds] of enriched uranium valued at 1.2 million [Swiss] francs [about $1.06 million]

b) This is not a first:
- The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) counted 250 thefts or loss of nuclear material in the world in 2006: that is an increase of 200% since 2002
-  Also, for the past 10 years, the IAEA counted 1,250 cases of traffic of atomic material
- These statistics show that the increased use of nuclear energy, even for civil purposes, can be dangerous


2- Proliferation:
 
A confidential Russian-Swedish report, leaked to The New Scientist, is alarming:
The 35 high-risk sites in the Kola peninsula in North-West Russia lack security and could “proliferate”



II- In light of the traffic of fissile material, the comeback of nuclear energy is worrying:

1- All the more worrying that the figures are disturbing:
- Today, there are 439 reactors spread out in 31 countries
- In the next 50 years, there could be twice as many


2- Amongst the countries, which want to acquire nuclear energy:
- Of course: Iran
- But also: Egypt, Jordan, Gulf countries, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco
-> Countries with no nuclear experience and with fragile political stability
-> In the case of Iran: this is all the more worrying that Iran supports Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad


3- A study published some time ago by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (The Future of Nuclear Power) listed the main risks of civil nuclear energy:
One of them is that international controls are not strict enough to prevent a transition from civil to military nuclear energy:
Indeed, nuclear waste, which represent worldwide more than 1,000 [metric] tons of plutonium, constitute a very acute problem:
- you only need 8 kilos [about 17.6 pounds] of this material to build a nuclear weapon;
this nuclear waste can be used to make dirty bombs
- industrialized countries, in particular the ones with nuclear energy, are relatively well armed against thefts of nuclear waste
- but in countries with economic difficulties, security measures are insufficient
- the fast growth of industrial capacities and of new technologies may make proliferation easier for developing countries wishing to acquire nuclear weapons


4- Francois Heisbourg, chairman of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy:
- He does not share this pessimistic view
- To him, this shows the difference of sensibility between France (where nuclear energy accounts for 78% of the production of electricity), and the USA along with Scandinavia:
“The technology is not the issue. (…) Nowadays, if you want to build a [nuclear] bomb, you must either build research reactors as in Zaire or Bielorussia, or install centrifuges as in Iran”





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Translation and summary provided by The Croissant. The Croissant 2007. All rights reserved.