Weapons Grade Uranium Seized Day after Nuclear Warning

Marc Sheppard
The very day after Canada's Defense Minister warned of a dirty bomb or nuclear device entering North American ports in a cargo container, Slovakian police thwarted the sale of enough weapons grade uranium to prove him right.

On Wednesday, Peter Mackay told an Ottawa conference of transportation security experts that the greatest threat facing North America is international terrorists detonating,
"a crude radioactive dispersal device or a conventional nuclear bomb after smuggling it in one of the millions of cargo containers arriving annually on foreign ships."
As reported by Canwest News service:

"His assessment of the maritime threat is the bluntest yet from a government minister and echoes concerns high-ranking U.S. officials have expressed publicly for years: al-Qaida has nuclear ambitions, is working to develop the nuclear capabilities to match, and just one of the containers arriving annually on North America's shores could be a Trojan Horse harbouring the unthinkable."
The Ottawa group also heard Gary Gilbert of U.S based Hutchinson Port Holdings suggest it's more a matter of when than if:

"We have seen drugs come in, we have seen illegal aliens, we have seen weapons. Why can't it be a weapon of mass destruction?"
In fact, once landed, an armed container might be shipped unfettered by truck or rail to virtually any major city in the country.

Of course, lacking sufficient fissile or, at the very least, highly radioactive material, such a terrorist threat is empty, right?

Don't breathe that sigh of relief just yet.

News broke on Thursday that two Hungarians and a Ukrainian were nabbed in eastern Slovakia and Hungary with 481.4 grams of highly enriched powdered uranium they had allegedly offered to sell for a million dollars.  The material was found to be 98.6% pure uranium-235. Anything exceeded 85% is considered weapons-grade.

Although nearly 25 kilos of such material would be needed to fashion a crude nuclear device, a fraction of that amount could easily power a rather nasty radiation-dispersing dirty bomb.

The convergence of these 2 stories will likely accelerate the ongoing argument of security versus commerce.  While DHS plans to increase the nuclear scanning rate of the over 11 million containers arriving at our ports annually from 1% to 100% by 2012, concern has been raised regarding the potential impact on freight movement.

My partners and I specialize in developing software for the transportation industry, with port container pickup, movement, and stripping playing an appreciable role.  So I speak from almost 20 years of experience when I report that most of the products you use and wear once sat in one those containers.  And that they must move quickly to deconsolidation or distribution centers in order to assure their contents reach final destination within crucial deadlines.

Currently, the DHS's Automated Targeting System -- heavily criticized by the Left for its scrutiny of people crossing our borders -- is used, in conjunction with presently available scanning apparatus, to flag a relatively low number of containers for physical inspection.

Attempting to inspect them all is a preposterous idea being floated by a few dreadfully uninformed congressmen. You may as well shut down commerce as we know it and hand al Qaeda a technical knockout. 

Researching and developing bullet-proof scanning technology and deploying it at all ports of both origin and destination would appear to be our only practical defense against this rendition of al Qaeda's ultimate dream

Of course, that dream likely includes delivery methods other than by sea.

As the loose uranium is suspected to have been of Russian or "former Soviet republic"origin, continued pressure to inventory and secure aging stockpiles of these horrendously toxic materials in the region is key.  Equally vital is the immediate escalation of any form of intelligence-gathering which might lead to more arrests such as these - Any.

Hopefully, this week's revelations will awaken us to move more quickly and resolutely toward each of these goals.
The very day after Canada's Defense Minister warned of a dirty bomb or nuclear device entering North American ports in a cargo container, Slovakian police thwarted the sale of enough weapons grade uranium to prove him right.

On Wednesday, Peter Mackay told an Ottawa conference of transportation security experts that the greatest threat facing North America is international terrorists detonating,
"a crude radioactive dispersal device or a conventional nuclear bomb after smuggling it in one of the millions of cargo containers arriving annually on foreign ships."
As reported by Canwest News service:

"His assessment of the maritime threat is the bluntest yet from a government minister and echoes concerns high-ranking U.S. officials have expressed publicly for years: al-Qaida has nuclear ambitions, is working to develop the nuclear capabilities to match, and just one of the containers arriving annually on North America's shores could be a Trojan Horse harbouring the unthinkable."
The Ottawa group also heard Gary Gilbert of U.S based Hutchinson Port Holdings suggest it's more a matter of when than if:

"We have seen drugs come in, we have seen illegal aliens, we have seen weapons. Why can't it be a weapon of mass destruction?"
In fact, once landed, an armed container might be shipped unfettered by truck or rail to virtually any major city in the country.

Of course, lacking sufficient fissile or, at the very least, highly radioactive material, such a terrorist threat is empty, right?

Don't breathe that sigh of relief just yet.

News broke on Thursday that two Hungarians and a Ukrainian were nabbed in eastern Slovakia and Hungary with 481.4 grams of highly enriched powdered uranium they had allegedly offered to sell for a million dollars.  The material was found to be 98.6% pure uranium-235. Anything exceeded 85% is considered weapons-grade.

Although nearly 25 kilos of such material would be needed to fashion a crude nuclear device, a fraction of that amount could easily power a rather nasty radiation-dispersing dirty bomb.

The convergence of these 2 stories will likely accelerate the ongoing argument of security versus commerce.  While DHS plans to increase the nuclear scanning rate of the over 11 million containers arriving at our ports annually from 1% to 100% by 2012, concern has been raised regarding the potential impact on freight movement.

My partners and I specialize in developing software for the transportation industry, with port container pickup, movement, and stripping playing an appreciable role.  So I speak from almost 20 years of experience when I report that most of the products you use and wear once sat in one those containers.  And that they must move quickly to deconsolidation or distribution centers in order to assure their contents reach final destination within crucial deadlines.

Currently, the DHS's Automated Targeting System -- heavily criticized by the Left for its scrutiny of people crossing our borders -- is used, in conjunction with presently available scanning apparatus, to flag a relatively low number of containers for physical inspection.

Attempting to inspect them all is a preposterous idea being floated by a few dreadfully uninformed congressmen. You may as well shut down commerce as we know it and hand al Qaeda a technical knockout. 

Researching and developing bullet-proof scanning technology and deploying it at all ports of both origin and destination would appear to be our only practical defense against this rendition of al Qaeda's ultimate dream

Of course, that dream likely includes delivery methods other than by sea.

As the loose uranium is suspected to have been of Russian or "former Soviet republic"origin, continued pressure to inventory and secure aging stockpiles of these horrendously toxic materials in the region is key.  Equally vital is the immediate escalation of any form of intelligence-gathering which might lead to more arrests such as these - Any.

Hopefully, this week's revelations will awaken us to move more quickly and resolutely toward each of these goals.