Feature

Why nuclear terrorism is so unlikely

Since 9/11, Americans have lived in dread of a terrorist nuclear attack, said Steve Chapman. The vision of a mushroom cloud rising over an American city has filled people with a

Steve ChapmanChicago Tribune

Since 9/11, Americans have lived in dread of a terrorist nuclear attack, said Steve Chapman. The vision of a mushroom cloud rising over an American city has filled people with a “sense of profound vulnerability,” helped build support for the Iraq war, and has been used to justify a sharp expansion in government power—from wiretapping to waterboarding. But the chances of al Qaida or another terrorist group carrying out a nuclear attack here, nuclear experts say, are “vanishingly small.” Terrorists would first have to steal about 100 pounds of bomb fuel from a government, and then transport the material hundreds of miles across borders without detection. Even if that were possible, building a bomb isn’t something you can do in a garage or a cave; you need specialized, high-tech equipment, and people with training and skills. Any weapon would then have to be smuggled into the U.S. without detection—and without anyone in the expanding circle of conspirators screwing up. As a point of perspective, let’s remember that in the past seven years, terrorists haven’t even been able to stage a simple truck bombing or other attack in the U.S. Building, transporting, and detonating a nuke would be infinitely more difficult, and infinitely less likely—our nightmares notwithstanding.

Recommended

Volcano erupts on the Canary Island of La Palma, forcing evacuations
A volcano erupts in the Canary Islands.
eruptions

Volcano erupts on the Canary Island of La Palma, forcing evacuations

Largest evacuation flight since Aug. 31 takes off from Kabul
Qatar Airways flight.
afghanistan evacuation

Largest evacuation flight since Aug. 31 takes off from Kabul

10 things you need to know today: September 19, 2021
Scott Morrison.
Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 19, 2021

CIA reportedly warned military about civilian presence just seconds before missile hit in Kabul
Site of U.S. missile strike in Kabul.
afghanistan

CIA reportedly warned military about civilian presence just seconds before missile hit in Kabul

Most Popular

Did Theranos Lose Afghanistan?
Elizabeth Holmes and James Mattis.
Samuel Goldman

Did Theranos Lose Afghanistan?

FDA panel rejects Pfizer boosters for people 16 and older
Pfizer vaccine
no can do

FDA panel rejects Pfizer boosters for people 16 and older

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers star Jane Powell dies at 92
Jane Powell.
rest in peace

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers star Jane Powell dies at 92