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Experts warn women leaders of nuclear risk

Original post made on Apr 18, 2013

Had Monday's explosions at the Boston Marathon contained nuclear material tens of thousands of people could have been killed, Stanford experts told a group of Bay Area women business and philanthropy leaders Wednesday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, April 18, 2013, 9:54 AM

Comments (21)

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Posted by gina
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 18, 2013 at 10:51 am

we get blown up we get blown up. nothing we can do about it unless we dig a hole in the sand and bury are heads in it. if someone is bent on self destruction were screwed so why worry.


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Posted by Jonathan
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2013 at 11:05 am

This is not sensible commentary by the so called experts.

As a counter, see the discussion at Web Link


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Posted by Barney
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 18, 2013 at 11:10 am

I'm more worried about the 3,500 gun deaths since Newtwon, than N Korea and nuke terrorism fear mongering.

That's real.

Good thing we are getting a straight up-or-down vote in the Senate on the sensible gun control/background checks supported by 85% of Americans polled.

Oh, wait, what the... filibustered so no u-or-down vote?!?!?!?!?


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 18, 2013 at 11:17 am

> Former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry urged the women to use their influence to push for Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and for ambitious U.S. goals at next year's international nuclear summit in the Netherlands.


Huh, are the terrorists supposed to sign the test ban treaty?


> "All they need is fissile material... and they would put it in a delivery truck and drive it down the streets of New York or San Francisco and set it off."


Hardly, non-state actors are mostly not going to have the intelligence, technology or wherewithal to build a bomb. They would most likely poison themselves with radiation. Bombs that are constructable with public domain knowledge would most likely not work, or be very low yield.


For a really good discussion of nuclear threats see the book "Physics For Future Presidents" by Richard Muller. This is a very understandable and clear writeup of how radiation works and the different types of nuclear threats from dirty bombs, to uranium bombs to plutonium/hydrogen bombs. Radiation and nuclear bombs are such a unknown area that it is just scary and irrational for most people to discuss.


The idea of comparing state nuclear actions with terrorist nuclear threats is really apples and oranges. From what I am reading here this talk sounded like it was trying to scare people more than explain things to them.


As far as the documentary "Nuclear Tipping Point", it is on You-Tube if everyone wants to watch it.

The documentary starts out by Colin Powell talking about the threat or nuclear boms from state actors ... then the documentary starts and lists all the NON-nuclear terrorist NON-state actor events ... which is again conflating terrorist threats with state threats. Then says the familiar "Al Qaeda has been trying to get or make a nuclear weapon for over a decade" Have we heard this before anywhere?

It just sounds like the Neocons are trying to market more scare tactics.


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Posted by PECUNIAC
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2013 at 11:45 am

I'm much more concerned that we are reaping the harvest of supporting dictators and using our military/CIA to destabilize nascent democracies, unions, and popular uprisings. We have created a vast arsenal of grievances that groups like Al Qaeda use to recruit naive young jihadists to sacrifice for their version of a religious fairy tale.

We have millions of angry white men, angry returning veterans, urban warriors, all with guns. Anyone can go to the big gun show in Arizona and buy an arsenal.

The average sedan today has the performance envelope of sports cars of the 50's. We all go fast enough to kill thousands of us each year.

This nuclear threat article looks like the bombardment of the media by "experts" in the run up to the war on Iraq. Or, it could be well intentioned, timely, 'filler'.


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Posted by Reasons-To-Fear-Dirty-Bombs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm

This is an odd article, leaving us wondering what really was said at this meeting.

The article's narrative seems to suggest that the meeting's organizers were suggesting that some sort of nuclear explosion was possible at the Boston Marathon. This scenario is extremely unlikely, compared to the possibility of a "dirty bomb"--

Dirty Bomb:
Web Link

A dirty bomb is a speculative radiological weapon that combines radioactive material with conventional explosives. The purpose of the weapon is to contaminate the area around the dispersal agent/conventional explosion with radioactive material, serving primarily as an area denial device against civilians. It is however not to be confused with a nuclear explosion, such as a fission bomb, which by releasing nuclear energy produces blast effects far in excess of what is achievable by the use of conventional explosives.



Since a dirty bomb is unlikely to cause many deaths by radiation exposure, many do not consider this to be a weapon of mass destruction.[5] Its purpose would presumably be to create psychological, not physical, harm through ignorance, mass panic, and terror. For this reason dirty bombs are sometimes called "weapons of mass disruption". Additionally, containment and decontamination of thousands of victims, as well as decontamination of the affected area might require considerable time and expense, rendering areas partly unusable and causing economic damage.
---

NOVA/Dirty Bomb:
Web Link

BBC/Dirty Bomb:
Web Link

(Note-the NOVA video is apparently off-line, but the BBC 43 minute video is on-line. Everyone is encouraged to watch this video—as there is a lot of information about how "dirty bombs" could be manufactured, and exploded in just about any urban setting.)

Test ban treaties may have an indirect link to the amount of nuclear material available to terrorists, but there are other sources that will not be covered by such test bans.


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Posted by Connie Conflation
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Good call.

Conflation is a tried and true Neocon tactic. "The documentary starts out by Colin Powell talking about the threat or nuclear boms from state actors ... then the documentary starts and lists all the NON-nuclear terrorist NON-state actor events ... which is again conflating terrorist threats with state threats"

The ol' "9/11 taught us that we need to attack saddam..." bs.


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Posted by Connie Conflation
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:03 pm

I also rec the post about the thousands killed by GUNS in the last couple months.

Beware North Korea, dirty bombs, etc... while wholesale slaughter goes on unabated, courtesy of chickenheart GOP senators and the NRA.


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Posted by George
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:09 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Connie Conflation
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:18 pm

3,500 American GUN DEATHS since Newtown

How many dirty bomb deaths since the 9/11 fearmongering about dirty bombs?

How many bomb deaths since Newtown?

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Reagan wanted a nuclear bomb free world, but he would not agree to give up SDI (think about N. Korea, at this point). He also wanted to win the cold war. Gorbachev wanted to win, by threatening, but Reagan called his bluff. Reagan won the cold war by projecting strength, not weakness. Several women's groups objected, including his own daughter, but he rejected their notions of appeasement and weakness. He won, they lost the argument.

There is no reason to respect women's groups.


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Posted by VixenVena
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 18, 2013 at 2:06 pm

If there is a ban on nuclear weapons, how will Iron Man be able to prevent the next infiltration of the Norse God Loki? We need the bomb!


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Posted by James Earl
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Reagan didn't win the Cold War. The USSR -LOST- the Cold War by invading Afghanistan in the 70's, committing half a million troops to it, spending trillions causing their economy to collapse while everyone got to see that the Red Emperor wore no clothes (including internally, with Soviets seeing limbless conscriptees returning home.)

If anything, Carter's support in forcing the Ruskies to commit more blood and treasure in Afghanistan is the most underrated reason the USSR fell within a decade of their 'vietnam'.

The USSR was teetering on it's last legs by the 80's, too bad our military-industrial complex had to hide that from the public, for obviously selfish reasons (hard to sell Americans on more nuclear subs and B-1 bombers when their is no real enemy.)

Reagan was lucky enough to be in office when it happened (busy trading weapons to Iran, while tripling the national debt.)


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Posted by Noel
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 18, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Wow. Is thisyet another part of the drive to start a stupid, unnecessary, highly dangerous and disastrously expensive war with Iran?


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm

A dirty bomb according to the latest thinking I've heard is not only unlikely,
but if employed would probably not work and if it did work it would really
not hurt many people, especially in the short term - think a few cancers.

It would most likely be just a big expensive pain in the ass to clean up, and
would scare a lot of people. Maybe what's needed is some realistic education.
I can't believe that on almost all issues such as this people are so far "the
same page" in their thinking.

Injecting the subject of nuclear weapons into a talk like this and connecting
it in some way to Boston is at the least unprofessional ... and these people
are supposed to the the most trusted people have in our society? Hmmmm?

I can think of two sure long term results of any nuclear terror blast like this,

One would be whatever people in whatever country was behind it would suffer immensely, and

Two, our country would convert to a much less free, maybe unrecognizably and unacceptably less free "military power".

Coincidentally all the people mentioned at this talk are among the group that would become very important and probably benefit immensely by actions taken to combat this questionable threat????


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Posted by Sheeple and the fear beanstalk
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 18, 2013 at 2:41 pm

"Coincidentally all the people mentioned at this talk are among the group that would become very important and probably benefit immensely by actions taken to combat this questionable threat????"

Winner. Those that talk about fear (or the instigators, at least) are the ones profiting from it.

Those that repeat are generally unpaid sheep with little else to do, in my opinion.


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Posted by SuperD
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm

A dirty bomb is - in my opinion - a threat that should be taken seriously. Many hospitals still use radioactive sources in certain equipment. For example, Elekta's Gammaknife uses Cobalt-60. Security is all across the board in these institutions - some good, some bad. Not to mention the 3rd world countries where radioactive material might be purchased on the black market.


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Posted by Mad Libs
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm

SuperD, close, but not quite.

Let's MAD LIB that last bit of fear, slighlty adjusted for the real world:

"A GUN is - in my opinion - a threat that should be taken seriously. Many PEOPLE still use BULLETS in certain GUNS. For example, GUNS uses BULLETS. Security is all across the board in these GUN PROVIDERS- some good, some bad. Not to mention the LEGAL GUN DEALERS where GUNS might be purchased FOR the black market (under current law)."

See how close you were to reality?

Universal background checks for everyone on all transfers will save more American lives in a year than were killed by dirty bombs.


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Posted by What, me worry?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 18, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Why worry about things out of our control anyway? You would not want to "survive" a nuclear attack...the living will envy the dead.

Irresponsible commentary by Stanford "experts" again.


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Posted by Jake
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 18, 2013 at 7:08 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 18, 2013 at 9:09 pm

SuperD, the amount of radiation in any local store of medical tools is pretty small, but also should someone steal it how would they get it and store it? They would most likely end up very sick after a few days or close exposure.

Not true for anyone who was a victim of a dirty bomb. Trying to distribute enough radiation wide enough is a big problem and would not likely cause much of a problem for people even if they were exposed to it because it is hard to distribute enough radioactive material evenly enough to saturate an area.

In the cobalt bomb works by an addition of regular cobalt to a nuclear explosion. The cobalt is turned radioactive inside the nuclear explosion into cobalt 60 with a half-life of 5 or so years. It is an awful and inhuman weapon, but it takes something like a nuclear weapon itself to vaporize and broadcast so much radiation around so as to be a problem.

The problem sounds scary and daunting until you start to investigate the actual techniques that people have speculated on or tried ... and it is a difficult thing to make an effective dirty bomb, except for the terror value it will have. It is much more likely that anyone trying this will poison themselves than do much harm to the public.

Not saying it is impossible, but anyone who could pull this off would most likely be supported by a powerful or state actor, meaning that it would be an act of war.


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