Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 12:20 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 12:20 | SYDNEY

Nuclear terrorism: What, me worry?


Sam Roggeveen


13 April 2010 16:58

You tend to breath a little easier after reading John Mueller, who has long resisted the many excesses of the counter-terrorism industrial complex, and tried to maintain the at-times unfashionable view that terrorism is a manageable threat. In this piece, he says the same of nuclear terrorism.

And yet, stories like this — about an Australian invention for a new way to perform uranium enrichment — do lead one to wonder if there isn't something Mueller is leaving out.

The reasonably gentle pace of nuclear proliferation across the world since the Second World War is based partly on the fact that mastering the science and engineering of nuclear weapons is really hard, and Mueller's case is built partly on this historical trend. But what if, rather than a continuation of this gradual proliferation, we reach a tipping point in the cost and availability of the technology needed to build such weapons?

You might argue that this is a perpetual worry, and since it hasn't happened yet, there's no good reason to worry any more about it now. But that doesn't account for the accelerating pace of technological innovation in the modern world, and the enormous amount of new data (scientific, technological and other) being produced. Could the likelihood of a tipping point be increasing?

The Nuclear Reactions column is supported by the Nuclear Security Project of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, as part of a wider partnership between the NSP and the Lowy Institute.

Photo by Flickr user JustUptown, used under a Creative Commons license.