After the meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump seemed to end on an optimistic note, one may have hoped that our fears of a nuclear attack would subside. Not so, according to The New Yorker, who published an article entitled, “This Is What a Nuclear Attack on New York Would Look LIke.”
While the timing may seem odd, it’s important to note that feelings are mixed about the North Korea-US summit. Some are pleased and feel that a great deal was accomplished, while others are unhappy – even angry – that Trump made nice with a brutal dictator.
It’s tough for many folks to separate their feelings about Trump, whether those feelings are animosity or support, and it shows in their assessment of the conversation. And this isn’t unique. People had the same difficulties with President Obama. Supporters thought everything he did was great, while detractors thought he was the Anti-Christ. We’d all be wise to try to separate our feelings from our take on current events, as difficult as that might be. However, that isn’t what this article is about.
What would the nuclear threat look like?
The New Yorker piece is prefaced with the opinion that the potential nuke won’t be from the sources most of us have been worrying about. “If America is attacked, the strike probably won’t come from North Korea. And it will be even scarier than we imagine.”
The intro is a political diatribe with some legitimate facts that are overshadowed by a blatant bias. But Ferris Jabr is an experienced science journalist who is a contributing writer for Scientific American and has been published in Wired, Foreign Policy, Aeon, Hakai, New Scientist, and Quanta, to name just a few outlets. Don’t be too put off by the first couple of paragraphs to read the very credible information he provides in the rest of the article. The author discusses a distinct, chilling possibility that has quite a bit of merit.
…a nuclear attack on the United States could well come not from the skies but from the streets. Experts warn that it would be relatively easy for terrorists to build an “improvised nuclear bomb” and smuggle it into America. Building a ten-kiloton bomb nearly as destructive as the one dropped on Hiroshima would require little more than some technical expertise and 46 kilograms of highly enriched uranium — a quantity about the size of a bowling ball.
This is absolutely not outside the realm of possibility.
Last month, some weapons-grade plutonium went missing from a university in Idaho. While the amount taken wasn’t enough to make a giant nuke, it was certainly enough to make a dirty bomb. I was unable to find any indication that the plutonium was ever recovered, and if any readers know, please post your links in the comments so I can update this article. This isn’t the first time that nuclear materials have gone missing – far from it. In 2013, the Washington Post published an unsettling map that showed dozens of thefts or losses of the ingredients required to cook up a dirty bomb or worse.