(National Sentinel) Danger: A senior State Department official is warning that despite careful tracking of atomic materials, nuclear terrorism is still a very real global threat and could even be used to attack the United States.
“It is, in a sense, our solemn charge to do everything we can to make sure you don’t have to hear about it because it has been entirely suppressed,” said Christopher Ashley Ford, the assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, at a national security conference Monday.
“But it’s still good to talk about nuclear smuggling and nuclear terrorism from time to time, to ensure that everyone remains focused upon keeping this true,” he added, the Washington Examiner reported.
Thanks to the success of international monitors, smuggling nuclear materials is difficult — but it’s not impossible, Ford warned.
He said though “it is trickier than one would imagine” to build a nuclear device, it remains far too easy, Ford noted.
He said nuclear smugglers and prospective terrorists could perhaps benefit from “lax security practices in Russia” and other former Soviet states.
“We cannot be sure how much R/N material is already out there on the black market,” Ford said, in an address that was delivered on Saturday but published Monday on the State Department website.
“There are a great many nuclear material scams out there, but not everything is a scam, and there have been enough real cases to make clear that we must take this challenge very seriously indeed.”
Ford added that “countries have reported 18 seizures of weapon-usable nuclear material” since the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991.
“The bad news is precisely what makes the good news of this success so good: Some bad actors do continue to seek such materials, and there is a black market out there in which traffickers do sometimes attempt to buy or steal — and of course, to sell — such things,” Ford said. ”We need to make sure these people fail.”
More worrisome than nuclear smuggling is a new undersea drone that the Pentagon is certain Russia is building. The drone is reportedly capable of delivering a large nuclear warhead to an enemy port or detonate just off the shores of a large city.
“In addition to modernizing ‘legacy’ Soviet nuclear systems, Russia is developing and deploying new nuclear warheads and launchers,” said an unclassified draft of the nuclear posture review first published by the Huffington Post.
“These efforts include multiple upgrades for every leg of the Russian nuclear triad of strategic bombers, sea-based missiles and land-based missiles. Russia is also developing at least two new intercontinental range systems, a hypersonic glide vehicle and a new intercontinental, nuclear-armed undersea autonomous torpedo.”
The Russian undersea drone — which is nicknamed “Kanyon” by the Pentagon and goes by the full name Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6 — has been tested at least once, Defense News reported.
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