Nuclear theft... By Amjed
19 August, 2013
The foreign media has always been generous in keeping Pakistan's nuclear programme in focus. Satellite images of our nuclear facilities and their doubled expansion has been published. It is claimed that facilities housing nuclear and radiological material, including spent-fuel storage and fuel-cycle facilities, are an easy prey for terrorists or religious extremists in Pakistan. The terrorists may steal radioactive material to fabricate a 'dirty bomb', a euphemism for a radiological-dispersal device. Harvard professor Matthew Bunn is particularly fearful of a stolen Pakistani bomb. He says he will not live in either New York or Washington due to the possibility of a nuclear attack. To the chagrin of Pakistani critics, a study by Lara Kirkham and Alan J Kuperman has exposed the vulnerability of the US's nuclear plants. The study, titled 'Protecting US Nuclear Facilities from Terrorist Attack: Re-assessing the Current Design Basis Threat' has been published by the Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.
They infer that terrorists could potentially buy, steal or construct such a nuclear weapon. Alternatively, they could sabotage nuclear facilities to damage the reactors or spent fuel pools and release radioactive material into the environment. The US nuclear arsenal includes approximately 5,000 active and inactive nuclear warheads. Harvard University professor Graham Allison estimates a 50 percent chance of a nuclear terrorist attack on US soil in the next decade. Obviously, terrorists do not need to transport stolen material from Pakistan to the US. Pakistan's critics, mysteriously, fail to mention that there has been no security lapse in or theft of radioactive material from any of Pakistan's nuclear establishments. It is worth mentioning that Pakistan is a party to the United Nations' Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials. The steps taken by Pakistan to safeguard its nuclear assets conform to international standards.
Abdul Mannan, in his paper titled 'Preventing Nuclear Terrorism in Pakistan: Sabotage of a Spent Fuel Cask or a Commercial Irradiation Source in Transport', has analysed various ways in which acts of nuclear terrorism could occur in Pakistan. He concludes that the threat of nuclear terrorism in Pakistan is a figment of the imagination, rather than a real possibility. It is time the West deflected its attention to itself or India where movement of nuclear materials is taking place between nuclear-power plants sprawling across different states.