THE BOOK IS FICTION. THE THREAT IS REAL.
Issues highlighted by the novel The Kurchatov Penetration
By Timothy S. Jacobson
The triumvirate threat of loose nukes within the republics of the former Soviet Union, rampant and sophisticated cyberterrorism, and the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran pose a real and imminent danger to world peace. These threats also provide the underpinnings of the fictional story in The Kurchatov Penetration
, a new novel by Timothy S. Jacobson.
The issues highlighted in the book may constitute the largest and most urgent threat to the national security of the United States and Israel. A Wall Street Journal article, dated February 1, 2012, warns that "Iran's leaders have 'changed their calculus' and now appear wiling to conduct an attack within the U.S., spy chief James Clapper said, as senators zeroed in on concerns about conflict with Iran in a hearing Tuesday on threats to the U.S." Director of National Intelligence Clapper went on to explain that the threat of cyberattacks "is one of the most challenging ones we face."
"But it was the potential threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, the rising tensions between Washington and Tehran, and growing concern that Israel could launch an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities that dominated the discussion on Capitol Hill," according to the WSJ
Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is quoted saying, "I think 2012 will be a critical year for convincing or preventing Iran's development of a nuclear weapon."
An article in the 2/6/2012 issue of Time Magazine
quotes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as calling Iranian uranium-enrichment facilities "an existential threat" to his country.
It is exceedingly difficult to enrich enough uranium-235, or to produce enough plutonium-239, to reach critical mass for construction of a nuclear weapon. Nevertheless, the Islamic Republic of Iran has committed extensive resources to the project and has nuclear facilities scattered throughout the country. If plutonium were to be successfully smuggled out of Russia and provided to Iran, America's Persian enemy could bypass years of tedious enrichment and gain instant nuclear weapons capability.
Extraordinarily huge quantities of loose nukes are scattered through Eastern Europe. The Council on Foreign Relations issued a report in 2006 stating:
Before its collapse in 1991, the Soviet Union had more than 27,000 nuclear weapons and enough weapons-grade plutonium and uranium to triple that number. Since, severe economic distress, rampant crime, and widespread corruption in Russia and other former Soviet countries have fed concerns in the West about loose nukes, underpaid nuclear scientists, and the smuggling of nuclear materials. Security at Russia's nuclear storage sites remains worrisome.
The CFR report goes on to state that "there is ample evidence of a significant black market in nuclear materials. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reported more than a hundred nuclear smuggling incidents since 1993, eighteen of which involved highly enriched uranium, the key ingredient in an atomic bomb and the most dangerous product on the nuclear black market."
A serious risk exists that terrorist organizations could obtain Russian nuclear weapons. The Council on Foreign Relations pointed out that Russian authorities admitted that within a three-year period, "they have broken up hundreds of nuclear-material smuggling deals. In October 2001, shortly after the World Trade Center attacks, a Russian nuclear official reported having foiled two separate incidents over the previous eight months in which terrorists had 'staked out' a secret weapons storage site."
The book One Point Safe
, authored by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, warns that the collapse of the Soviet Union left thousands of warheads and hundreds of tons of plutonium sitting virtually unguarded, presenting the world with a terrifying nuclear threat. The book quotes the head of the Russian nuclear weapons program complaining that weapons hurriedly evacuated from the former colonies were left "sticking out of warehouse windows."
One Point Safe goes on to report that (now-retired) General Evgeni Maslin, who was the chief custodian of Russia's nuclear weapons, said openly, "What is theoretically possible and what we must always be prepared for is train robbery, attempts to seize nuclear weapons in transit."
Horribly poor nuclear security has existed for more than nukes in transit. Frank von Hippel, a former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology, once toured the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow and was appalled to find weapons-grade uranium, enough for several atom bombs, stored in simple high school lockers, merely guarded with a padlock. It turned out that nobody at Kurchatov had even taken an inventory of the uranium as of the time von Hippel conducted his tour, according to the authors of One Point Safe.
The catastrophe of September 11, 2001, pales in comparison to the massive destruction and widespread deaths that could be wrought by a terrorist-state possessing nuclear weapons. The fictional book The Kurchatov Penetration highlights the very real threat to world security that exists when nuclear weapons technology lies exposed to falling into the wrong hands.