Looks like it's officially here. Any advanced technology eventually becomes commonplace. Usually, this is a good thing. It's called progress. But the arrival of the possibility that Islamic terrorists – or another Timothy McVeigh – can build their own nuclear weapons means what the reality that they will do so is not far off, barring extraordinary effort on our part.
The Washington Post reports that a couple of years ago Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware asked scientists testifying before his committee if it was possible to build a nuclear device from parts available on the open market. They said it was. He asked them to prove it.
A few months later they showed up with the weapon, minus the nuclear fuel needed to make it work. The scientists "explained how — literally off the shelf, without doing anything illegal — they actually constructed this device," Biden said.
It is only a matter of time before the one missing component, highly enriched uranium or plutonium, also becomes available. Fissile material now exists in more than 40 countries, according to a new report, and all too often it is inadequately secured.
The report notes that the U.S. has done more than any other country over the last dozen years to prevent nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists – but says that we haven't done enough yet.
As Sam Nunn, the former Georgia center who heads the nonprofit that funded the new study, said, "If one of the great cities of the world goes up in smoke … it will make our retroactive rearview-mirror look at Sept. 11 look like a waltz."
It is hard to imagine a higher priority. And given how far behind the curve congressional hearings usually are, I shudder at what likely is already underway out there somewhere.