These dangerous materials are still vulnerable in too many places, Obama said on Tuesday at the opening session of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, which has drawn more than 40 world leaders. It would not take much, just a handful or so of these materials, to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people and thats not an exaggeration, thats the reality that we face.
Obama warned against complacency in preventing loose nuclear material from getting into the hands of terrorist groups. The legacy of the Soviet Unions breakup, inadequate atomic stockpile controls and the proliferation of nuclear-fuel technology mean the world has lost precise count of atomic material, which could be used to make a weapon. There are at least 2 million kilograms of stockpiled weapons-grade nuclear material left over from decommissioned bombs and atomic-fuel plants, according to the International Panel on Fissile Materials, a nonprofit Princeton, New Jersey research institute that tracks nuclear material. Thats enough to make at least 100,000 new nuclear weapons on top of the 20,000 bombs already in weapon-state stockpiles.
Because a terrorist needs only about 25 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium or 8 kilograms of plutonium to improvise a bomb, the margin of error for material accounting is small.