WE LIVE WITH
nuclear perils of several kinds. Russia and the United States agree
on reducing nuclear stockpiles, but disagree on whether to destroy
them or store them, as the Bush administration proposes to do.
Many observers say that Iraq may be on its way to developing a
nuclear bomb, and periodic leaks from the Bush administration
suggest military intervention to abort it.
A captured terrorist leader says that Al Qaeda is close to having
a crude nuclear device that could be smuggled into the United
States. We are told that one dirty bomb nuclear fuel wrapped
around a conventional detonator could affect half of
Even peaceful nuclear energy can set people on edge. April 16
happened to be the 16th anniversary of the Chernobyl
atomic-energy-plant explosion in Ukraine. And today, children are
being born with genetic mutations. Half a world away, people in
south Nevada battle against depositing nuclear waste in Yucca
A Brookings Institution report says that a successful attack on a
nuclear power plant could result in 10,000 fatalities.
The Bush administration has a peculiarly ambivalent attitude
about the nuclear danger. On the one hand, the president is devoting
his energies to protecting us against the "axis of evil" and weapons
of mass destruction.
On the other hand, his administration is moving closer to the
edge of the nuclear abyss.
The most recent Nuclear Posture Review called for developing a
small hydrogen bomb an "advanced-concept nuclear weapon." To that
end, initial studies are already in progress on something called the
Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator that could reach deeply buried
targets. The administration seems unconcerned about possibly
becoming the first since Hiroshima and Nagasaki to explode a nuclear
weapon in anger.
But the most mystifying of all is the way the White House is
skimping on protection from nuclear danger. According to The New
York Times, the Energy Department complained that budget director
Mitchell Daniels cut 93 percent of the money that Secretary Spencer
Abraham had wanted for nuclear security.
The $380 million request was part of a $27 billion emergency
bill, and it covered such items as security for weapons storage and
cleanup, security for nuclear science facilities, and a National
Center for Combating Terrorism.
Administration officials are quoted as saying that nuclear
security is at a high level and adequate to meet the nuclear threat.
Well, maybe, but you would think that an administration spending
billions for tanks that the military doesn't want might put a little
extra effort into nuclear protection.
Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst at National Public