U.S. creates nuclear event tracking and identification system

Published 2 February 2006

As Iran marches relentlessly toward the bomb, and North Korea continues to augment its own nuclear arsenal, worries about nuclear attack on the U.S. grow, and a new government-wide team is preparing for the grim event

The growth of North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal, and Iran’s determined steps toward acquiring nuclear weapons, increase worries in the United States about nuclear attacks not necessarily from these two countries, but from organizations with which these countries will share their nuclear devices. We have reported about criticism from industry of the administration’s plan to purchase radiation sickness medication (both the number of pills and their effectiveness). While this is going on, the Pentagon has formed a team of nuclear experts to analyze the fallout from a terrorist nuclear attack on American soil so that the identification of the attackers could be made more quickly. The team may draw on hundreds of federal experts, and will use such tools as robots which collect radioactive debris and sensitive gear to detect the origins of a device, whether a true atomic weapon or a dirty bomb. Nuclear explosives, as do conventional explosives, have a signature which makes it possible to identify who made them. Quickly determining who exploded the device and where it came from would help the authorities decide on how to retaliate. It can also serve as a deterrence: Terrorists may not be deterred by a threat of retaliation (just look at suicide bombers), but a country such as Iran may well think twice about giving or selling its nuclear weapons to terrorists if it knew that were such a bomb traceable back to Iran — to go off in the United States, Iran itself would be destroyed.

-read more in William Broad’s New York Times report