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Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When

Oct 11, 2008
Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice, and some say under a gigantic mushroom cloud. We “saw in” the Atomic Age, born two months and a week after Nagasaki was destroyed, and we wouldn’t be surprised if we saw it out as well. Peacefully, if possible, but more likely in a holocaust that will leave the handful of survivors envying the dead.

Nine nations either have or are believed to have nuclear weapons today, and seven of them scare the pants off us: USA, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel.1 We’re not nearly so concerned about those old foes the UK and France as we are about the other seven. The US has been rattling the nuclear sabre for over sixty years, and many of our fellow members of the nuclear club are failed states or on the verge of failure.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) maintains records in their Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB) consisting of “incidents of illicit trafficking and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and radioactive materials.” It’s the scariest database we know of, containing, as of December 31, 2007, over 1,300 confirmed incidents since 1993. Their ITDB Fact Sheet for 2007 shows illicit activity increasing, in some cases alarmingly, over the 14-year history of the ITDB. Russia and Germany seem to be the hotbeds of illicit activity regarding highly enriched uranium and plutonium.

One hundred countries participate in the ITDB, and it is good to see the list includes all the nuclear powers except North Korea. Still, given the prognosis for a future where resource wars will almost certainly play a role in international relations, the odds are altogether too great to merit debating if a nuclear incident is in our future. It is sadly much more to the point to wonder where or when it may occur.
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1 List of states with nuclear weapons, from Wikipedia (Accessed October 7, 2008)
tags: Militarism

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