In theory, Russia took the warheads back and looked after them.
In practice, there was an initial period of everything that wasn't bolted down disappearing from silos, and the response was to fill them with concrete to prevent any further access.
What then happened is gangs came in the dead of night with diggers and drills and unearthed silos, and took who knows what.
My source is a lengthy chat with a chap at Pervomaisk, a Soviet missile silo in Ukraine, who used to be the guy who'd press the button (there are two buttons and two keys, but he explained that you could use the soviet flagpole in there to press the other button). Now he gives tours to tourists. $1 for Ukrainians. $5 for Russians. $10 for ex-USSR members. $20 for foreigners. $100 for Americans - or something like that. I laughed heartily at their pricing structure, before straddling the Satan missile for the obligatory "riding the bomb" photo.
This same phenomenon was mirrored elsewhere in the ex-USSR, and wasn't limited to fissile material - Degelen mountain in Kaz, for one, where they not only dug up left over Pu, but also thousands of tonnes of radioactive copper (cabling used for remote monitoring, power, and detonation of subsurface tests), which made its way into the global electronic supply chain, and was only discovered after they installed x-ray detectors at Dover for scanning for stowaways. My original source for that was a British truck driver who was paid to keep hush and not talk about why he'd ended up with (mild, flu-like, had to retire) radiation sickness - but it hit the press a few years later anyway.
An important side point: Ukraine definitely wanted nuclear weapons, in particular as a viable threat against being re-annexed by Russia. Ukraine gave them up only after receiving a solemn promise by the US and UK that they would protect Ukraine's territorial integrity.
"On December 5, 1994 the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Britain and the United States signed a memorandum to provide Ukraine with security assurances in connection with its accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state."
"The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations."
Basically, everybody involved pledged not to attack Ukraine. They made no pledge to protect Ukraine from other attackers. The only signatory who has violated the agreement here is Russia. The agreement does not require the US or the UK to protect Ukraine from Russia.
(Strictly speaking they are required to ask the UN to defend Ukraine if they are attacked or threatened by nuclear weapons, but that hasn't happened.)
"The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine, as a non-nuclear-weapon State party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used."
How could a country be militarily attacked by a nuclear-weapons-armed state (Russia) and yet not be threatened by nuclear weapons? Because Russia pinky swears they won't use them?
First, to what degree can we say Ukraine is threatened by nuclear weapons, when we know (not because of empty promises, but just the realities of nuclear weapons) that nukes are not on the table? Would we say that Iraq or Afghanistan were threatened by nuclear weapons? I certainly wouldn't.
Second, let's say the mere possession of nukes by the attacking party does qualify as a threat. The US and UK then go to the UN Security Council and seek assistance for Ukraine. Russia has veto power there, so this will do nothing useful whatsoever. You could say that they ought to do as they promised even if it's useless, but it would still do nothing to actually protect Ukraine.
So now you're talking about a case where the US is violating both the spirit (no UN petition) and the letter (no meaningful aid) of the memorandum, although doing each in different ways. At that point, I think the damage is done. Other countries will not and should not expect the US to honor agreements it makes, even on the deathly serious issue of voluntarily giving up nuclear weapons.
A few years ago, I think consensus would have been that Russia wouldn't annex a sovereign state or deploy military assets in support of a separatist movement.
... I think reality is a lot more complicated.
If they decided to go for a big push, and realized they could hasten victory substantially by deploying a few low-yield tactical devices? The international community has proved nothing other than "It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission."
Besides, in a hypothetical case of annexing all of Ukraine, does "Russia used some tactical nuclear devices" really look that much worse than the also-present "Russia invaded and annexed a sovereign state"?
Famous promise that no one can remember exactly but it was spun up by Russian propaganda anyway?
If you had said Czechoslovakia in 1938 that would have been a much better example.
The timeline is something like:
1939 - Poland gets conquered by Germany and the USSR.
1941 - The USSR-occupied part of Poland gets conquered by Germany.
1944-45 - German-occupied Poland gets conquered by the USSR.
1989 - Poland reasserts independence as the USSR slowly collapses from within.
As far as I'm aware, no significant British or American forces got anywhere near Poland as part of any of this.
They deliberately let the Germans go in there and kill the local uprisings, so that the USSR could then move in and take what is left.
I also don't believe that's true. At the time, the French had about 5 million men, 4,200 tanks, 11,000 guns, and 3,000 airplanes. The Germans had about 4 million men, 3,500 tanks, 7,000 guns, and 4,000 airplanes. That's rough parity, not even counting the UK's potential contribution. And the German army was busy subduing Poland in the east, so there wouldn't have been a whole lot available to defend against an attack from the west.
The UK had no reason to declare war in 1939 other than their promise to defend Poland. We went into a global war that lasted 6 years, took half a million of our lives, bankrupted us and caused us to lose a global empire (well that was a good side effect). Bear in mind that this was ~20 years after a previous war after which the general view in the UK was that we would never fight another.
It's not nearly so simple as that. For example, the French had better tanks, as well as more tank. There were plusses and minuses on both sides, but the result is far from clear and certainly not an overwhelming advantage in either direction. Combine this with the German army being busy in Poland for several weeks, and the French and British had a great opportunity to start their part of the conflict on their own terms. Some highly-placed Germans stated after the war that they would have been totally screwed if the Allies had invaded then.
The Battle of France revealed that the Germans were capable of completely smashing the Allied forces. This was partly because the places where the Germans had the advantage (aircraft, communications, doctrine) were key. But it was also just that the leadership was so afraid of getting drawn into a repeat of WWI that they let themselves be overrun. It's interesting to note that nobody expected the Germans to have that level of success, not even the Germans. Even Hitler, who was the optimistic one, thought they'd lose a million soldiers in that fight. I don't know if you're basing things off this experience, but it can't be used to show that the Allies thought they couldn't beat the Germans, nor probably even to show the Allies couldn't actually beat the Germans if they had struck first.
As for the French tanks. In 1939-1941 tanks were fairly useless. The German dive bombers were the dominant weapon system -- it was only when the allies had decent air forces that the dive bombers became irrelevant.
That's the whole crux of this thread: that British military assistance promises are worthless.
They half assed tried it by declaring war on germany without actually starting the war. But they let the USSR--which also invaded Poland--keep the country after the war.
(Bear in mind that there was not evidence of the holocaust for another 2 years. The huge (and real) moral basis of the European side of the second world war was largely discovered post facto.)
This is of course arguable, since it rests on a counterfactual. But given the pains Russia took to camouflage their invasion as a domestic uprising (see http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26532154), it seems at least plausible, since the only reason for them to disguise their involvement would have been to reduce the risk of retaliation.
> This same phenomenon was mirrored elsewhere in the ex-USSR
This wasn't limited to military hardware. I visited Russia right after the dissolution (summer 92), and there as a mixture of celebration and uncertainty about what was going to fill the power vacuum.
Organized crime was simply buying both land and power. With the exchange rate crashing 5 RUB:USD per day, literally everyone was panicking to get hard currency or anything that would otherwise hold value. I wouldn't surprise me if this attitude extended to military hardware if the price was right (and in the right currency).
 banks were giving ~95-100 RUB/USD when I arrived. A bit over two weeks later it was >180 RUB/USD.
It did. I was in Krosno visiting there right up against the Ukranian border (about 35 km) around that time and there was a 'black market' there that sold just about anything that could be carted across the border or that could move by itself. Regular army gear (including weapons and munition) were openly for sale, vehicles as many as you wanted and 'larger stuff' (unspecified but it was pretty clear what they meant) to order.
Apparently you could even buy warplanes if you had the means to pick them up, and one dutch scrap metal trader did just that (and promptly got caught with 2 more-or-less combat ready Mig 21's at the Dutch border in a large truck...).
Yeah, and it wasn't just in the silos, either. The notorious arms smuggler Viktor Bout (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Bout), for instance, built the private air force he used to deliver his goods around the world by grabbing Soviet Air Force transport planes wherever he could. The story goes that his people even pried one off a pedestal that had been placed in front of an air force base as a display piece.
Actually, it is un-explainable miracle to me - a Russian who has lived there and saw what was happening at the end of 198x and through the 199x - that the world's black markets weren't flooded with USSR nukes and related materials. USSR had 40000 nuclear warheards. Sure there should had been a couple lost :)
Unable to find a fence. Even I could fence gold and silver or copper. Rare earths would have me scratching my head a bit, but I could probably figure it out.
Uranium or plutonium? How would I even start? I'd have to try to sell to North Korea, Iran, or Pakistan or who else? How would I even come into contact with the appropriate people?
What strategies can an average joe use to minimize exposure to that?
Mildly radioactive junk is not that rare. Stanford used to have a little fenced area near the toxic waste incinerator with stainless steel parts left over from accelerator experiments cooling off. 55Fe has a 2.7 year half life, so you let it cool off for a decade or so, then recycle. The only protection was an chain-link fence, a radiation warning trefoil, and a street light. One day somebody cut the fence and stole the stainless steel, prompting a search of scrapyards. But the metal was near the end of its storage period anyway, and wasn't detectable as radioactive.
A lot of materials safety concerns are more for protection of workers than end users. Lead removal from electronics is an example. There's not really any risk to owning electronics with lead in them unless you are incinerating them or enjoy licking circuit boards, but it is a serious occupational risk to factory workers and also a disposal problem.
"The FBI has privately discounted Moldovan claims that radioactive materials seized in more recent smuggling incidents here were being sought by the Islamic State terrorist group."
Everything's safe, then?
Let's investigate: According to the Moldovan police presentation:
The person interested in buying was of Arab-Islamic origin, Yosif Fiasal Ibrahim, 1975, citizen of Republic of Sudan, Africa.
Also, Sky News:
"Investigators found contracts made out to a Sudanese doctor named Yosif Faisal Ibrahim for attack helicopters and armoured personnel carriers.
There was a copy of Ibrahim's passport, and evidence that Chetrus was trying to help him obtain a Moldovan visa. Skype messages suggested he was interested in uranium and the dirty bomb plans.
The deal was interrupted by the sting, but it looked like it was well advanced. A lawyer working with the criminal ring had even travelled to Sudan, officials said."
There are extremists in Sudan endorsing IS, Reuters, 2014:
"The legal system in Sudan is based on Islamic Sharia law." "Stoning remains a judicial punishment in Sudan. Between 2009 and 2012, several women were sentenced to death by stoning."
FBI's and the article's claim could still be technically true (Ibrahim from Islamic Sudan, not ISIS) but it helps us being better informed.
There are countries, luckily, with Muslim majority which don't employ Sharia officially. Even some of the countries that do today, didn't only a few decades ago, like Pakistan:
I also agree that we should not mix the logical relations: => and <=> aren't the same. Of course we can't conclude that everybody who supports Sharia in his country directly supports ISIS. But there was never a claim like that here.
According to the estimates, there are more active ISIS fighters coming from Sweden than those coming from Sudan, even if Sweden has four times less people.
Project Sapphire Wikipedia Entry:
Project Sapphire was a successful 1994 covert operation of the United States government in cooperation with the Kazakhstan government to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation as part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. A warehouse at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant outside Ust-Kamenogorsk housed 1,322 pounds (600 kg) of weapons grade enriched uranium to fuel Alfa class submarines (90% U-235). Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the fuel was poorly documented and secured, and in danger of being sold for use in the construction of nuclear weapons.
This guy is involved in the sale of enriched uranium and he gets FIVE YEARS?!
*>> Rockefeller asked then-CIA Director Porter Goss whether enough had vanished from Russia’s stockpile to build a nuclear weapon. “There is sufficient material unaccounted for so that it would be possible for those with know-how to construct a nuclear weapon,” Goss responded.
Previously in the article they mentioned that this 10kg of Uranium believed to be for sale on the black market is a fifth of what you would need for a Hiroshima-type weapon but it's just about enough for a well designed implosion nuke. It's not clear whether these statements are connected or if the journalist is making a mistake but Douglas Birch, the coauthor reporting from Russia & Maldova, has been reporting on nuclear issues for the Center of Public Integrity for a few years now.
With 60kg of HEU I could build Little Boy by myself in my garage with parts I can get at Home Depot and Cabela's.
With 10kg of HEU I could build Fat Man with a breeder reactor, a couple hundred thousand in precision machine tools, several tens of thousands in specialty electronics, and a small team of specialists.
Both are possible, but one is far more feasible to do than the other for a terrorist group. That said, 10kg in a Little Boy type device would still cause a pretty big boom. The damage from the radiological hysteria that would follow its use would be far greater than the explosive damage, though.
But an implosion weapon is infinitely more complicated, even if I hand you all the material it just isn't going to happen that someone would be able to build it in their garage. The concept is pretty simple, but there are a lot of little gotchas and also the machining and electrical tolerances are impossibly difficult without very specialized tools even if you had detailed plans. The design for the initiator in particular was notoriously a major problem during the Manhattan project and they really weren't sure if any of the ideas they had would work.
Gun-assembled weapons are simpler but still pretty complicated. I'm not sure there would be much benefit to using only 10kg of U-235, which is way subcritical. You'd get a tiny bit of extra boom and some nasty isotopes from the fissions, but strapping some Co-60 to a bomb would probably be more effective. For comparison, Little Boy used around 64 kg, though that was more than the minimum needed.
Gun-assembled weapons are simpler, but still complicated. The big issue with them is that they tend to go critical as the target and projectile are coming together and blow themselves apart before the bang really gets going. Getting them to come fully together and stay confined long enough to get good yield is not as easy.
In other words once it is at 20% you can use a much smaller enrichment plant to take it to weapons level due to the nature of the cascade. My back of the envelope calcu-guess is that 20% enriched represents about 95% of the work on the way to weapons grade. [edit: guess based on only isotope ratios, not any specifics of yield of the various enrichment processes]
You still need the raw mass though. To get enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb (~15kg) from 20% enriched feed stock and discharging 2% enriched depleted uranium waste you need about 65kg of 20% enriched.
So 10kg (assuming it's 20%) is definitely concerning, but it's not enough to make a bomb.
It's frankly amazing that this hasn't happened much sooner. The amount of biological, chemical, and nuclear material lying around the former Soviet Union, basically guarded by people with starvation-level salaries and no future, was beyond alarming.
In fact, as bad as this is, the chemical and biological material was much worse. Some of that stuff could take out a city, then proceed to decimate an entire nation. Extremely scary stuff.
If that's what a charity managed to acquire through official means, it's quite scary to think what others might have got their hands on.
And my friends got some very warm hats.
What concerns me is that during the last days of the old Soviet Union, they knew the jig was up. They knew it was all falling apart.
So they started hiding stuff. Everywhere. Papers were destroyed. Chemical and biological weapons were taken out and buried.
So there's one problem with "dangerous stuff we know about and we're worried that it's not being protected well", then there's an entirely different (and more dangerous) problem of "dangerous stuff we never acknowledged existed and nobody has records for where it is any more."
This is especially true of the most nasty stuff (nerve gas, viral agents, etc), which can break down within days of lacking precisely controlled refridgeration.
Of course, between CRISPR and the fact that much of the knowledge about these bio agents have been in people's heads for decades, there is still a considerable amount of risk in this area.
* I posted the parent comment yesterday
* Currently, it says "2 hours ago"
* If I click "2 hours ago", the new page still says "2 hours ago"
* If I click "reply", the new page says "22 hours ago", which seems plausible.
Not sure what to do about this. I suppose we can make the older comments keep their original timestamps and just be older than the timestamp at the top. That already happens when we merge threads anyway.
So the deal was just for show? Surely both sides are aware of this specific issue?
Not sure what politifact's standing is exactly, from the Wikipedia page there isn't much contraventions surrounding it and it seems to be hated by both right and left wing so it might be "ok".
As for the Iran deal, well it is some what of a show it is a breakout state and always will be however it doesn't mean that the deal won't be effective if it will be used as a gateway for further political concessions within the state.
For the time being Iran is not really owning up to the deal it's halted the dismantling of it's centrifuges http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/10/us-iran-nuclear-de... and it's just the recent hurdle in the implementation of the deal.
The deal was a big win for the US as it needed to regain some form of legitimacy on the world stage and it at least gave them couple of more years till they'll actually have to deal with the issue, for Iran it's also not a bad delay even if they'll have to slow down the process if in fact they are building a bomb, as their delivery systems aren't complete and their long range missile program wasn't progressing at the same pace.
If it will end up well or will it blow up in everyone's face only time will tell.
The Iranian deal was inevitable China and Russia wanted it, and most importantly the EU was in desperate need for new markets and new energy sources especially with relations with Russia circling the drain.
If the sanctions couldn't hold Iran could do what it wants anyhow, this way the US has at least some way to try to keep it accountable to something and at least some way to justify a military action if one would ever take place (even tho i doubt it could be ever considered successful, not at the usual expected costs as set by the US public anyhow).
*Pretty much all reactors are create new fissile material even in normal fission Plutonium is created in the fuel rods and about 30% of the thermal energy produced by a power producing reactor comes from PU decay and fission.
But breeder reactors are ones that designed to breed fissile material from fertile material (reactor based enrichment) so they create more fuel than what they consume but they can't really be used to produce power at that time. Some reactors combine the 2 and they'll have a power producing phase and a breeding phase usually they'll have several cores and move the fuel around to either breed or burn it.
How much of that production between the US and USSR is weapons-grade?
If you have links or books to recommend that would be great.
As for books don't have anything on top of my head but this is a good source of info
The association of american scientists and similar organizations should also have plenty of nuclear related information.
As I had to Google this earlier, and you might do it now, may I be the 1st one to welcome you to the watch list.
* may vary based on your enrichment process
* based on common publicly known weapon designs (50kg per fissile core) not sure how low an Uranium fissile core can get once you start getting into salting and multi staged fission.
Edit: Just to elaborate on the previous comment.
The difference in effort required between weapons grade and fuel grade uranium is almost negligible (this is why breakout is so easy for nuclear powered states).
A 1000SWU on average will produce 5KG of weapons grade Uranium and about 100-120KG of reactor grade uranium.
A 1000MW nuclear power plant needs about 75 tons of fuel per year (or upto 18 months depending on the burn rate), a bomb needs under 50kg of Uranium.
"The guard found a receipt, written in Cyrillic, for the purchase of “uranium 235,” and then, after pulling apart an air compressor in the trunk, found a lead container inside with that label on it."
Everything about this whole thing seems kind of implausible, and poorly substantiated by anonymous "intelligence sources." Kind of reminds me the Valorie Plame incident.
Ahem.. I mean, we should all be very afriad, and obey the nearest authority figure!
trying to find a buyer for 39 kilograms of
one kilogram of highly-enriched uranium for
roughly $36 million
$330,000 as an initial payment
a small glass ampoule ... containing a blackish
using genuine samples weighing a total of 5
grams as a lure
dozens of such samples on its shelves
meant to be the first of several shipments of
highly-enriched uranium totaling 10 kilograms
Also, I'd imagine a "receipt" in this case is not merely a set of carbon slips in salmon, canary and goldenrod. There are probably code words, used to mask meaning and ensure authenticity.
But hey, you never know. Maybe it was just a coffee stained napkin with the following written on it in ballpoint pen:
I.O.U. $360M - re: 10kg U235 4 bomb
Probably because of this.
I'm also quite certain that the criminals do care very much where the money comes from. Most criminals I know understand this is the difference between a pay day and a prison sentence.
Make a standing offer: the US will give a 110% price match for these materials, no questions asked, or between the US and Russian security services we'll do our best to shoot you in the head. Choose.
speaking of that anyone manage to see when it ends? this new silk road redesign is really confusing me.
There's much more public info out there now, and machining has improved significantly in the past 50 years, so the main barrier to building a crude bomb is material rather than the expertise or machining.
However, building something which squibs, i.e. undergoes a partial criticality and goes bang in a reasonably large but not city-killing way, and spreading a bunch of radioactive material about, is probably much easier. (This is the 'dirty bomb' thing that was getting the press excited a couple of years back.)
(Fun fact: if you're locked in a room with a nuke on a timer, your best option is probably to beat the shit out of it with an axe. Provided you can physically damage it enough to upset the implosion geometry, it won't go off properly. Of course, you'll still die, but...)
My understanding is that dirty bombs don't even necessarily undergo any nuclear reaction. You don't even need the right kind of material for them. It's just a traditional bomb with radioactive material strapped to it.
Maybe we're better off forgetting about a bomb completely. Grind it up fine, watch while it spontaneously catches fire (plutonium chemistry is weird!), dissolve the plutonium oxide in nitric acid, water down and then drive around the city spraying it into the air in a fine mist...
If ISIS starts turning out their own rifles, ammo, truck repair parts, maybe some drones or something, or otherwise demonstrates dedication at a societal level to designing and building things, then I'd start to worry. As it is now, it's pretty hard to buy.
And speaking of potential damage, a nuclear blast is just the start of the potential issues. The real question, if somebody managed to pull that off, is how would the target of such an attack reply? How would the allies of that target think and expect, and how would any countries that are rivals to the target and/or allied/sympathetic to the suspected attackers react to the response?
When I look back at history, it seems like major economic turmoil is very often followed by outbreaks of major warfare or at the very least significant flirtations with major conflict. The Great Depression was followed by WWII, the decline toward the end of the 60s by the hottest period of Vietnam, the dot.com crash by 9/11 and Iraq, and the 2008 crash by the Ukraine crisis and what seems to have been a near miss between the USA, Russia, and possibly other powers. 2008 was also followed fairly shortly by the rise of ISIS and a re-heating of Iraq and its general region.
We're hearing a lot about an impending emerging market debt crisis, and we know China has gone to 'heroic' efforts to backstop its stock market and real estate markets against the first stages of what appeared to be an unfolding crash. It's entirely possible that another economic crisis is brewing in China and other 'emerging' markets, and it could be a bad one. If that's the case at some point it will exceed the ability of even China's autocracy to prevent it with currency and market manipulations.
As I led off with above, I doubt that there's an overt decision that happens. I doubt anyone says 'well, the economy's down so we better have a war!' Instead I suspect it's a bit like tectonic plates. When an economic crash happens it exacerbates stresses that are already present in the system and quite likely pushes some people and/or state actors over the edge. People often behave more desperately and irrationally under economic stress; you can see this in the willingness of former Soviet officials to actually distribute such deadly material during the waning days of the USSR. Not being able to eat is a powerful motivator.
Edit: not deleting this, but I hate to have posted it hours before hearing about Paris.