FBI to Get Nuclear Weapon Neutralizer
By Jon Fox
Global Security Newswire
WASHINGTON — The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration expects this year to provide the FBI with a way to disrupt the detonation of an improvised nuclear device, a tool first responders could use to put the bomb into a “standby” mode until expert teams could respond, NNSA chief Tom D’Agostino said yesterday (see GSN, Feb. 9 2007).
“Obviously the tools themselves are highly classified,” D’Agostino said, while avoiding any specifics about the device he said could be deployed to FBI agents during this calendar year.
If adversaries knew too much about techniques potentially used to temporarily disarm a nuclear device they could counter such techniques, he said. What D’Agostino would say, however, was that after the inclusion of $16 million in the fiscal 2008 budget he expects one of the concepts proposed by the national laboratories to become a reality this year.
Proposals involved electrically interrupting an improvised device’s firing circuitry or chemically disrupting a critical element of a bomb.
The idea is to give the FBI, the agency tapped for the lead during the initial response to any domestic nuclear incident, the tools where they could essentially put the improvised nuclear device in sort of a standby mode,” D’Agostino said.
Such a delay would allow the Energy Department’s Joint Technical Operation Team, a group that assists the Defense Department’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, more time to respond if a terrorist nuclear device were discovered on U.S. soil.
According to a 2003 DOE inspector general report JTOT teams are dispatched via plane in the event of an incident.
Outlined broadly in the president’s fiscal 2009 budget request, programs to respond to nuclear terror would receive $222 million, an increase of nearly 40 percent, although some of that boost represents a reallocation of funds.
The lion’s share of that funding, nearly $160 million, would provide for collaborative efforts with the Homeland Security Department and the intelligence community to study “improvised nuclear device concepts,” according to the budget summary (see GSN, Feb. 5).
D’Agostino said there would also be a focus on both continuing work on such “stabilization” technologies to render a bomb temporarily safe and nuclear forensics work, identifying the origin of nuclear material based on its isotopic characteristics.
“That’s real money, that’s extra money that wasn’t there before,” he said, indicating he’d like to see even more of a focus in future years on nuclear counterterrorism efforts. “As we develop our next year’s budget you’ll be seeing that manifested.”
This year, in terms of stabilization technology, getting something out to the FBI agents in the field as quickly as possible is really the goal, he said.
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