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MoD shows terrorists how to make an A-bomb
By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent
(Filed: 15/04/2002)

THE Ministry of Defence has placed a step-by-step guide on how to build an atomic bomb in the Public Record Office for anybody to see.

It has also released a file describing various ways in which such a bomb could be smuggled into the country.

There are complete cross-sections, precise measurements and full details of the materials used for all the components of the first British bomb, including the two key parts: the plutonium core and the initiator that sets off the chain reaction causing the blast.

The plans, seen by The Telegraph and available to anybody of any nationality, are contained in files released over the past five years.

They would enable a terrorist to make an atomic bomb without difficulty, according to an engineer who worked on the British atomic weapons programme.

Brian Burnell said he was not normally an advocate of greater secrecy, but added: "These documents should never have been declassified and since the events of September 11 there is a case for removing them from public access."

The Conservatives demanded an immediate Government explanation. Bernard Jenkin, the shadow defence secretary, said the files were "a monstrous free gift to terrorists".

He accused the Government of a "horrific dereliction of duty" to keep the nuclear weapons programme secret.

The files relate to the construction of Blue Danube, the first British atomic bomb, which was built in the late 1940s and early 1950s after the Americans cut off co-operation on atomic weapons because of fears over British security.

Mr Burnell, who is retired, said he went to the Public Record Office as part of a local history project because he wanted to know more about the Blue Danube project than any single engineer had been told at the time.

"It was like the production line for a car," he said. "Each person worked on one aspect, so I had a lot of unanswered questions. Asking them at the time would have been a bad career move."

Mr Burnell was astonished by the amount of information he found, much of it in a single file.

He said: "I am confident that if I were prepared to accept some risk - and we know since September 11 that such people exist - then I would be able to produce the necessary components."

All the terrorist would need was a fairly basic machine shop.

"No one is suggesting that the bomb would need to be as efficient as the original," Mr Burnell said. "In fact, for terrorist purposes, the dirtier the bomb was the better."

The biggest difficulty would be obtaining weapons-grade plutonium. But several rogue states, including Iraq, have access to such material, and Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'eda terrorist network in particular is known to have tried to obtain such material.

The ministry refused to comment last night.

28 October 2000: A-bomb bluff helped deter invasion by Russia
12 September 1999: 'I gave bomb secrets to Russia so it could stand up to the West'

Related reports  

External links  
Public Record Office
Nuclear and chemical weapons - WW2 and Cold War History in Britain
UK atomic bomb timeline - Atomic Weapons Establishment
Documents relating to the development of the atomic bomb - Nuclear Files
News headlines - Ministry of Defence
UK Aerospace Projects and their codenames - Skomer
Centre for Nonproliferation Studies