Confronting the Nuclear
Threat: 'Nothing is Unthinkable Now'
"The civilian nuclear power industry has taken on renewed appeal, thereby increasing the risk of a diversion of nuclear material. ... Confronted with the ever-changing shape of
the terrorist threat, nothing is unthinkable now."
Neither the collapse of the Soviet empire nor September 11th caused
much to happen. Despite several abortive attempts, it's only now that the
international community has decided, under the leadership of Barack Obama, to
seriously address the risks posed by the spread of highly radioactive material
and its potential acquisition by criminal gangs or terrorist networks.
The responsibility for this is widely shared. It
ranges from the historic duplicity of the great powers (anxious to conserve market
share and the rights of nuclear states) to the reluctance of industrial lobbies
to admit to the risks of this technology in all of its implications. It involves
the constant fusion of civilian needs and military goals. And it concerns the
incapacity - or unwillingness - of the developing countries to equip their
facilities with security measures commensurate with the dangers involved. Few areas are
surrounded by such a dose of ulterior motives and ambiguity. And without a doubt, in no other area are the
imperatives of national sovereignty put forward with such hypocrisy as with the
potential devastation of an accident or criminal activity playing out along national
But time is pressing. Faced with another global threat - that
of global warming - the civilian nuclear power industry has taken on renewed appeal,
thereby increasing the risk of a diversion of nuclear material. Confronted with
the ever-changing shape of the terrorist threat, nothing is unthinkable now,
and certainly not the making of a "dirty bomb" that could sow death
and destruction in New York, Moscow or Paris.
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