CNN has an interesting article on the safeguarding of highly
enriched uranium. A reporter was allowed to
accompany a mission in Viet Nam to remove some cold war era highly
enriched uranium from a US-built/USSR-fueled nuclear reactor.
It is kind of neat to read about, in part because the whole
thing was secret until the mission was completed.
The author, Jill Dougherty, was even allowed to handle one of the fuel
She mentions that, so far, 442 kilograms of fresh HEU has been secured
from 11 countries. She adds that the job is halfway
you think that being halfway there is not too bad, let’s recall that
the Bulletin of the Atomic
Scientists advanced the Doomsday
Clock from 7 minutes to midnight, to 5 minutes to midnight,
earlier this year.
The CNN article mentions that one particular project is half-way to
completion. However, there still is an enormous amount of
unsecured radioactive material. Much of it was produced and
disseminated by the USA. This is detailed nicely in a series
published by the Chicago Tribune: An
atomic threat made in America. Note: the Trib
is to be commended for doing some old-fashioned, real journalism.
(It took me a while to find it. I tried going to
the Trib site and searching for “Doomsday”, and all
I got was a flurry of articles about the Chicago Transit Authority.)
The Cold War has indeed left a lasting and fearsome legacy.
It would be well for us to remember that all wars leave such
In Iraq, we have created an entire generation that has known mostly
war. They are malnourished, their education and parenting
were disrupted, They are sharpshooters and bomb-makers, but
had inadequate guidance during their crucial formative years.
They are learning that allegiance to the local militia is
more important than allegiance to the government. There are
tons of explosives and thousands of weapons floating around, with no
This is not good. The longer it goes on, the more entrenched
it will become.
The CNN reporter described an orderly, peaceful transfer of nuclear
material in Viet Nam. Iraq could be orderly and peaceful like
that. But it will not be, so long as we are there.
Yes, Viet Nam went through a difficult transition when we pulled out.
But it was the best we could have done, at the time.
And despite the chaos of the transition, the man who was the
US President at the time, manager to get re-elected.