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Nuclear Truckers Haul Warheads Across US

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the why-can't-the-history-channel-make-a-show-about-that dept.

The Military 461

Hugh Pickens writes "As you weave through interstate traffic, you're unlikely to notice a plain-looking Peterbilt tractor-trailer or have any idea that inside the cab an armed federal agent operates a host of electronic countermeasures to keep outsiders from accessing his heavily armored cargo: a nuclear warhead. Adam Weinstein writes that the Office of Secure Transportation (OST) employs nearly 600 couriers to move bombs, weapon components, radioactive metals for research, and fuel for Navy ships and submarines between a variety of labs, reactors and military bases. Hiding nukes in plain sight and rolling them through major metropolitan centers raises a slew of security and environmental concerns, from theft to terrorist attack to radioactive spills. 'Any time you put nuclear weapons and materials on the highway, you create security risks,' says Tom Clements, a nuclear security watchdog for Friends of the Earth. For security, cabs are fitted with custom composite armor and lightweight armored glass, a redundant communications system that links the convoys to a monitoring center in Albuquerque, and the driver has the ability to disable the truck so it can't be moved or opened. The OST hires military veterans, particularly ex-special-operations forces (PDF), who are trained in close-quarters battle, tactical shooting, physical fitness, and shifting smoothly through the gears of a tractor-trailer. But accidents happen. In 1996, a driver flipped his trailer on a two-lane Nebraska hill road after a freak ice storm, sending authorities scrambling to secure its payload of two nuclear bombs; and in 2003, two trucks operated by private contractors had rollover accidents in Montana and Tennessee while hauling uranium hexafluoride, a compound used to enrich reactor and bomb fuel."

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How's it feel (-1, Troll)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 2 years ago | (#39097965)

To be strapped to a 45 tonne rolling nuke reactor at 6am?

Re:How's it feel (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098029)

Why would it feel any different than trucking a couple of thousand bees? Or oil? Or some potentially dangerous material?

Nuclear warheads and uranium don't just up and spontaneously explode y'know.

Re:How's it feel (4, Funny)

Pseudonym Authority (1591027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098037)

But what if they did? o.O What then? Do you want the blood of SPONTANEOUS EXPLOSIONS CAUSING THE APOCALYPSE on your hands?

Re:How's it feel (4, Funny)

sirdude (578412) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098287)

Why would I care? I'd be dead :)

To quote Epicurus [wikipedia.org] : When we are, Death is not; When Death is, we are not.

Re:How's it feel (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098429)

They would probably give him a medal for that. 'Cause if he had the blood of some apocalyptic explosions on his hands, it would mean that those killed explosions wouldn't be around to have our blood on their hands, or whatever thing explosions have instead of hands...shockwaves, perhaps?

Re:How's it feel (5, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098131)

I would be a lot more worried about the tankers transporting chlorine or any other kind of hazardous aggressive material. The nuclear material is usually contained very well to withstand normal accidents.

And not much is likely to happen if a nuclear warhead was involved in an accident since it requires a detonator which should have been removed before transport if proper procedures have been followed.

The thing you should worry about the most is if someone decides to hijack the cargo. Or the newspaper headlines printing that you had an accident involving a warhead.

Re:How's it feel (4, Informative)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098237)

Uranium hexafluride is nasty stuff just in chemical terms.

Re:How's it feel (5, Funny)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098253)

So is Sodium Chloride.

Re:How's it feel (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098297)

Nothing is 100% safe, but I suspect the lethal dose of common salt is somewhat higher.

As in, if there was enough to kill you you'd be able to see it.

Re:How's it feel (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098439)

What if you got it in your eyes, then there would be enough to kill you and _YOU WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO SEE IT_.

Re:How's it feel (3, Informative)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098277)

Regarding the detonating bit - even if there was an accident and the detonator were left on (we'll ignore malice for the moment), it'd be more likely to prevent the bomb from ever exploding "interestinglyl" without some serious extra work, than to make it accidentally explode. One of the things I learned in first year physics - in general, once uranium gets to critical mass or above, it explodes quickly, and without a lot of external pressure, set up "just right", the explosion won't be enough to do more than destroy a small room. In such an accident, the detonator (itself a bomb), would do more damage, I think.

Re:How's it feel (4, Insightful)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098383)

Yup, this article is just more anti-nuclear scaremongering.

Just wait, next thing we know Greenpeace will be setting up roadblocks.

Re:How's it feel (0, Troll)

flyneye (84093) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098411)

A little like a fallacy. since 90k lb. loads require special "lowboy" trailers with extra sets of tires and believe me, you notice these.
Speaking as a shipping professional with more experience than many of you have in breathing, it's not hard to put two plus two together.
1. During anytime of day in any metropolitan area, the same local truck drivers network the city on sameish routes. These guys note who is out and anything strange they see like funny looking trailers pulled by drivers they don't recognise.
2.This whole concept deals with a government bureaucracy doing something outside an office and claiming some degree of success in their efforts. Bullshit! See #1.
3. Unless they got an experienced driver and trained him to be a Fed, his driving is going to stand out to other drivers like a neon sign that says IDIOT to other experienced drivers.
4. Martin Mariettas payloaders are going to have to be dissembled to load anyway. If it's big it will go on a flatbed with a "box-tent-cover or just a tarp. Not too subtle. If it's small and can be forklifted in, it can go in a box trailer and be hidden.
5. The government is made of bigger bunglers than you work with, they did after all have to choose an employer that seldom fires for anything just to have a job for more than a week.

So, you see, this story is just so much gov.public image meant to lul you into that secure feeling. Working?

Re:How's it feel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098485)

You sound like you have one of those 100mph desk chairs. If you really have any shipping experience you can spot these Van/Box trailers a mile away.
Unless this 90k load is too big to fit in a van, enclosed trailers offer more security. All one needs is an overweight permit for anything over 80k. Plus traveling the same route often enough, you know which trucks they are.I can 100% guarantee these trucks will have an escort among other things.
That is all I will share.

How else they gonna do it? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39097969)

use UPS or Fedex?

Re:How else they gonna do it? (4, Funny)

muckracer (1204794) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098067)

> use UPS or Fedex?

US Postal Service, of course:

"Fry like an Eagle...into the future~~" :-D :-/

Re:How else they gonna do it? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098223)

In the UK, nuclear weapon convoys are unmistakable, and they are incredibly heavily guarded. The weapons are carried in armoured articulated lorries, but they are accompanied by escorts from the police, the nuclear constabulary, the regular army, the marines, decoy trucks, recovery tow vehicles, fire tenders...

  Regional roads are closed entirely for them while they pass by, patrolled by police on foot. Nothing is allowed to block their way. They don't stop.

This is how you're supposed to do it.

Re:How else they gonna do it? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098315)

This is how you're supposed to do it.

Great job old chap!

I can't wait for your next topic: oral hygiene.

Re:How else they gonna do it? (5, Funny)

sphealey (2855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098381)

===
In the UK, nuclear weapon convoys are unmistakable, and they are incredibly heavily guarded. The weapons are carried in armoured articulated lorries, but they are accompanied by escorts from the police, the nuclear constabulary, the regular army, the marines, decoy trucks, recovery tow vehicles, fire tenders...

    Regional roads are closed entirely for them while they pass by, patrolled by police on foot. Nothing is allowed to block their way. They don't stop.
===

While you are observing all that, the actual nuclear warhead is being moved in a regular looking lorry marked TESCO.

sPh

Re:How else they gonna do it? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098413)

Bingo. A little subterfuge can go a long way.

Re:How else they gonna do it? (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098399)

In the UK they just like to put on a show.

Re:How else they gonna do it? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098441)

In the UK, nuclear weapon convoys are unmistakable, and they are incredibly heavily guarded. The weapons are carried in armoured articulated lorries, but they are accompanied by escorts from the police, the nuclear constabulary, the regular army, the marines, decoy trucks, recovery tow vehicles, fire tenders...

Just say it out loud: they just replace the Queen with a nuke an then follow the already established procedure.

(Of course, why waste time making up new ones?)

Re:How else they gonna do it? (4, Insightful)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098481)

This is how you're supposed to do it.

I agree, but unfortunately that's a much more expensive proposition when the country in question is the size of the US.

Trains? (5, Insightful)

xaxa (988988) | more than 2 years ago | (#39097971)

Why not use trains, at least for most of the journey? The chance of an accident is much smaller.

Re:Trains? (5, Insightful)

St.Creed (853824) | more than 2 years ago | (#39097977)

I guess that the predictability of the transport route would matter in this case.

Re:Trains? (3, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | more than 2 years ago | (#39097997)

I guess that the predictability of the transport route would matter in this case.

Mmmm... but the article has a map showing which interstate highways are used. As the article suggests, the greatest danger is the weather and bad driving (and I would add other vehicles as a high risk). Those risks are much, much lower with trains.

Re:Trains? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098065)

Hundreds or thousands of trucks go through a given stretch of interstate highway every day. Trains operate at a much smaller volume with fairly precise schedules and predictability. While it's not impossible to secure a train, its still a higher risk given the above mentioned facts. A terrorist could study train logistics and plausibly infer which trains are likely carrying nuclear cargo.

From the standpoint of being hijacked, trucks on random unpublished routes are far less likely to be intercepted by bad guys than trains.

Re:Trains? (5, Interesting)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098147)

To add to that, you have the complication of security while the train sits in a marshalling yard, or is waiting to be offloaded onto a truck for final destination delivery anyway. There is a lot of waiting around that a train does, while a truck can be loaded in a high security area and immediately drive out and onto the road.

Re:Trains? (1)

Dantoo (176555) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098173)

If it requires a heavyweight truck to transport these things then doesn't being on a train actually add security? It's not like somebody isn't going to notice you trans-shipping the "item". I figure that it would require at the very least a container forklift. If it's already on a truck on a highway it must be easier to just make it disappear?

Re:Trains? (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098243)

No, it requires a truck to carry the sealed container unit, you could quite easily get a nuclear weapon on the back of a pickup if you can get into the container.

Re:Trains? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098001)

With the film industry spoon feeding the government now how could this possibly be a viable option?
Haven't there been like a billion terrible train hijacking films made?

Re:Trains? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098047)

Haven't there been like a billion terrible train hijacking films made?

The film industry hasn't had an original idea in over 100 years! [wikipedia.org]

Re:Trains? (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098089)

Who says they don't?

Re:Trains? (2)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098153)

The nuclear flask trains seem to attract the press, green groups, locals, students and activist, federal police and state police and political leaders.
The track has to be inspected, news leaks out.
Everybody putting some spin on the move and the cops going deep under cover to earn work on their eco credibility.
With a truck, you have daily, weekly, monthly base deliveries of everyday products, spares, unique spares and a few nuclear parts in a random mix of big brand and no brand contractors..

Re:Trains? (5, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098255)

Why not use trains, at least for most of the journey?

Two words: Atomic Hobo.

Re:Trains? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098283)

Because Under Seige II.

Trains are used in the UK (5, Informative)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098323)

For civiil nuclear transport anyway, don't know about weapons. Here's a video of them testing one of the nuclear containers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJflu7z4QyI [youtube.com]

Re:Trains are used in the UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098395)

I remember them showing that to us in school at the time - I think all uk secondary school children were made to watch it

Re:Trains are used in the UK (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098459)

The transport containers used for military purposes are even designed/tested to an even higher standard.

physical fitness (4, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39097973)

Not your usual trucker then.

Re:physical fitness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098007)

They'll do an Eddie Murphy and put on a fat suit for the lulz.

Accidents happen (5, Informative)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39097979)

Even the inventors of nuclear bombs didn't want the damned things to exist. They knew they were possible and somebody would invent them - so they did. Oppenheimer said afterward that on watching a nuclear test he was reminded of a verse from the Hindu scripture: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

So we don't like these things. We don't want them to have to exist, but they do. And they've got to be moved around, which means over the roads we have. If you shovel enough shit, eventually you get dirty. Shit happens.

Re:Accidents happen (5, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 2 years ago | (#39097999)

"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

Followed by Eisenhower's lesser known quote, "All your base are belong to us"

Re:Accidents happen (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098325)

Er.. that quote is from the game http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero_Wing

Re:Accidents happen (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098425)

Slashdot needs a "-1 Retard" moderation.

Re:Accidents happen (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098473)

fret not: sometimes +5 funny doubles as exactly that, and so it does in this case.

Re:Accidents happen (5, Informative)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098003)

"Even the inventors of nuclear bombs didn't want the damned things to exist."

Nope. Read "The Making of the Atomic Bomb", it's a wonderful book. It describes the history and development of the bomb.

Some of the scientists were quite eager to create it.

Re:Accidents happen (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098359)

Some of the scientists were quite eager to create it.

"Jamie wants big boom."

Re:Accidents happen (2)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098009)

you're not kidding, i used to drive an 18 wheeler, although my cargo was harmless = perishable food items in a reefer, i drove quite a few years and seen some horrific accidents involving tractor-trailer rigs, I wonder if one of those nuke hauling trucks ever hit something at 70+ MPH and was demolished scattering their payload all over the place contaminating the locale and who ever happens to be nearby that does not die in the impact, yeah = i seen wrecks like that

Meh (3, Informative)

fireylord (1074571) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098229)

I take it neither you or the (somewhat sensationalist) gp have any inkling of just how well physically protected the load is in these situations?

Re:Accidents happen (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098251)

You forget that the damned things are made to be aborted after launch and come down with minimal scattering and no explosion.

Re:Accidents happen (4, Interesting)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098087)

Even the inventors of nuclear bombs didn't want the damned things to exist.

That's an incredibly one-dimentional view of things. There were certainly enthusiastic supporters, like Teller. And even Oppenheimer backed off on his recomendation to eliminate the arsenal, once he saw more of international politics.

Honestly, nuclear bombs are unequivocablly a very good thing. It brought war to its obvious conclusion, and eliminated all delusions around the topic, and attached a stigma to warring nations that didn't exist before, and forced peace upon us all, even those who didn't want it.

Re:Accidents happen (4, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098101)

What world are you living in? Nuclear weapons didn't bring peace, they brought subterfuge as conflicts between the US and the USSR had to be fought between proxy nations with "aid". It's quite easy to claim that the US and the USSR was at war several times without public acknowledgement.

LIMITED war (5, Insightful)

coder111 (912060) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098191)

Total war on big scale hasn't happened since WW2. No other war has come anywhere close with the scale of casualties and destruction. How high is the chance that USA and USSR would have fought it out on full scale if not for nuclear weapons? Or else, how high is the chance that USSR would have overran western Europe and USA wouldn't have been able to do much about it.

There has been no major war between world powers, and we have nuclear weapons to thank for that. No matter how much we hate them.

--Coder

Re:LIMITED war (3, Interesting)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098487)

How high is the chance that USA and USSR would have fought it out on full scale if not for nuclear weapons?

Not as high as you think. Both sides had large armies and fleets of bombers capable of reducing cities to rubble with conventional weapons. Then surface to air missiles were invented and bombers became useless, so the focus shifted to ICBMs. Even if they were not nuclear tipped there would still have been little anyone could do to stop one taking out important buildings with conventional explosives.

The USSR never had the resources to invade America, and America might have been able to invade the USSR but would have wound up with the same problems the Germans faced with long and bitter winters and difficult conditions. The terrain alone makes it very difficult, and China would never allow US tanks to simply roll through from that side.

Chances are there would have been a similar cold war, with both sides unwilling to enter a major conflict.

Re:Accidents happen (4, Funny)

eyenot (102141) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098369)

Oh, you're right.

I love how peacefully calm the world is, today, without any war and nobody worries about nukes any more. Hell, this article doesn't exist. You're having this conversation with your subconcious in a prolonged dream experience.if you die in this dream, you'll return to your successful life married to a young Nancy Reagan with a nice ass. But watch out, the longer you stay in this dream state the more volatile it will become. Simple fears will become overblown out of proportion, your mind will overreact explosively, and your delusion will protect you from dying, thus prklonging the tragedy. While millions of dream surrogates are being microwaved to instananeous crisps, you'll be snugly sniveling in your bunker wringing your hands over all the mustard flavored cheese curls you'll be able to have to your greedy self. You should, i repeat, should not have eaten the mustard flavored ones. Why is it always the mustard with you! OMG bombs on the highwaaaaayyyyyyy.....

Re:Accidents happen (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098455)

There were certainly enthusiastic supporters, like Teller.

I've never heard his say anything like that.

Re:Accidents happen (2, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098467)

It brought war to its obvious conclusion, and eliminated all delusions around the topic, and attached a stigma to warring nations that didn't exist before, and forced peace upon us all, even those who didn't want it.

Actually that was mainly thanks to Europe. Having just been through a second all-out war we didn't want a third and we made that happen through political means. War was not just impractical, it was unthinkable between western European nations. Combined with a UN that was far more effective than anything which came before it became virtually impossible to have any kind of major war between developed nations.

Re:Accidents happen (2)

lennier (44736) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098335)

So we don't like these things. We don't want them to have to exist, but they do. A

Yes, we really don't like these things. We don't like them so much that by some unexplainable mysterious accident of fate, sixty years worth of research and infrastructure devoted entirely to incinerating cities full of civilians just... somehow happened. It was the darnedest thing. One day, out of the blue, here was Enrico Fermi wondering what the heck this strange alien contraption was that had materialised in his squash court, the next a bunch of German V2 scientists just sort of wandered into Texas in a daze.

Anyhoo, long story, here we are with a couple of hundred silos full of flaming toxic megadeath, which we accidentally ordered instead of noodles! Hoo boy, there were some red faces in the Pentagon when that got found out, I tell you! Goes right against our principles to use 'em, of course. Always has. Um. No, we're not going to turn them off. Why? Weeell.... see now, if we *had* them but didn't *use* them, see, that would make us even better people, wouldn't it, than *not* having them and *wanting* to use them? See? That's logic!

A newer way of thinking (3, Interesting)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098377)

Albert Einstein said: "The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker."

He also said that if he had known the Nazis would not make atomic bombs, he never would have worked on them. Of course, now even digital watches (or at least smartphones) have enough computer power to design the essence of atomic weapons...

Here is a website by psychiatrist Donald Pet about moving to that newer way of thinking we need:
http://anwot.org/ [anwot.org]

Here is related stuff I have written:
http://www.pdfernhout.net/recognizing-irony-is-a-key-to-transcending-militarism.html [pdfernhout.net]
"Nuclear weapons are ironic because they are about using space age systems to fight over oil and land. Why not just use advanced materials as found in nuclear missiles to make renewable energy sources (like windmills or solar panels) to replace oil, or why not use rocketry to move into space by building space habitats for more land? ... These militaristic socio-economic ironies would be hilarious if they were not so deadly serious. ..."

Sometimes when you find ourself in a hole and you don't want to be there, the best thing to do is stop digging and start thinking in a new way about how you got there and how to get out.

They wanted to build them... (-1, Flamebait)

tjstork (137384) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098471)

Oh all of this supposed guilt by the nuclear scientists just nauseates me. They wanted to build it, and many of them wanted to use it - they were jews, and they thought the target was going to be Germany. But really, they wanted to build the bomb. They wanted to play with nuclear stuff, and didn't care so much about the consequences. All this hand wringing is almost fake, like a convict on tv saying "I feel sorry about what happened and I've discovered god"...

This ain't news. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39097989)

Nukes on 18-wheelers? Ho hum. What should be news is other, obscure but public, information about the lasting environmental effects of nuclear weapons production in the 1950s and 1960s, for example millions of acres of contaminated land that are under "long term stewardship" and the DOE's plans to guard them until the year 4000.

Re:This ain't news. (2)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098149)

Nukes on 18-wheelers would have been news before 1945 but not after.

So the Heavy Weapons Guy was right after all (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 2 years ago | (#39097993)

Cart does not push self, it pulls itself in this case.

(Apologies to TF2's cart-push gamemode)

Re:So the Heavy Weapons Guy was right after all (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098043)

And it's not that little either.

What could possibly go wrong... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098019)

Loophole around non-proliferation treaties... (4, Interesting)

NimbleSquirrel (587564) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098035)

I heard about this some years ago, and the reason was rather sinister.
The way I heard it is that nuclear non-proliferation treaties that the US has signed to limit the number of warheads in its arsenal. However warheads in transit do not count towards this total, and in the interests of security the US is not obliged to reveal how many warheads it has in transit at any one time or where they are going. By keeping a percentage of it arsenal perpetually driving around the US, the US government can effectively sidestep nuclear warhead limits imposed by non-proliferation treaties.

Re:Loophole around non-proliferation treaties... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098063)

The way I heard it is that nuclear non-proliferation treaties that the US has signed to limit the number of warheads in its arsenal. However warheads in transit do not count towards this total, and in the interests of security the US is not obliged to reveal how many warheads it has in transit at any one time or where they are going. By keeping a percentage of it arsenal perpetually driving around the US, the US government can effectively sidestep nuclear warhead limits imposed by non-proliferation treaties.

Bogus. Read the treaties. Here's a good place to start:

http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/140035.pdf

The reason is that it's far cheaper than flying them around, not to mention that an airplane crash is far more likely to cause either widespread contamination than a semitruck flipping over. The trailers can be designed to contain the materials compeltely at the energies involved - what are they going to do on an aircraft, put the nuclear materials inside a giant "black box"? (-;

Another risk involved with transporting them by air is that there's a much higher chance of them getting lost. There are in fact a good number of warheads buried in inaccessible locations because of aircraft mishaps, including a few in the CONUS.

Re:Loophole around non-proliferation treaties... (2)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098071)

It seems like it would be cheaper to simply lie about how many you have.

Re:Loophole around non-proliferation treaties... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098169)

It seems like it would be cheaper to simply lie about how many you have.

Pfft! That's so Israeli and Iranian.

Re:Loophole around non-proliferation treaties... (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098199)

To be fair, the Chinese are doing what he suggested -- albeit in secret underground train tunnels that span the length of the country.

Re:Loophole around non-proliferation treaties... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098107)

Nope, that's not the reason. Nuclear arms have been systematically in transit even before the first treaties. It made them far less vulnerable to first strikes. (Same principle as nuclear armed subs). Both the USA and the USSR knew this, and knew the other knew. So, when the treaties were signed, there was no question that such weapons would be included. It would be far too obvious a loophole to leave in.

Re:Loophole around non-proliferation treaties... (3, Insightful)

Stickerboy (61554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098201)

I heard about this some years ago, and the reason was rather sinister.

The way I heard it is that nuclear non-proliferation treaties that the US has signed to limit the number of warheads in its arsenal. However warheads in transit do not count towards this total, and in the interests of security the US is not obliged to reveal how many warheads it has in transit at any one time or where they are going. By keeping a percentage of it arsenal perpetually driving around the US, the US government can effectively sidestep nuclear warhead limits imposed by non-proliferation treaties.

Given that the United States, under current treaty limits, has thousands of warheads more than it needs to demolish every potential adversary in the world several times over, such a conspiracy would be both ridiculous and a huge waste of resources. What would keeping 50 more secret warheads traveling as a security risk accomplish when you have more than 5,000 already on hand?

Ridiculous (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098365)

Even if that weren't bullshit according to the treaty, it is a completely ridiculous method to circumvent it. The only use (if such) of massive nuclear weapon arsenals is to be capable of launching them at a moment's notice in response to an attack. A nuke that is being carried around in a truck intimidates zero people, except your own citizens if they find out you're moving weapons of mass destruction right through their neighborhood. If the military found itself in a situation where those nukes in transit would make a difference, it would be far too late.

It has to be done (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098061)

or else, we may never see Dare Devil in real life.

trucking those mothers... (4, Interesting)

xmundt (415364) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098069)

Greetings and Salutations.
          Nothing surprising about this. Containers of radioactive materials, and nuclear weapons have been trucked around the country for decades. Please note that in that time, There have been a total of three accidents with zero loss of nuclear materials. The bottom line is that the nuclear materials have to be moved somehow, and, overall the current transport system has proved to be safe and effective.
          The world is a dangerous place, but, before we run about screaming that the sky is falling, perhaps we should look at the probabilities of a given disaster. There is always a non-zero chance that any disaster can happen - for that matter quantum theory tells us that there is a non-zero chance that all the oxygen molecules in a room will end up on the left half of the room, leaving nothing but nitrogen on the right half. However, in many cases (like these) the probability of a disaster that releases radiation or puts significant amounts of it in an enemy's hands (or moves all the oxygen out of half of a room) actually happening is so low that it might happen once in the entire lifetime of the universe.
          I would prefer it that we lived in a world where nuclear energy was only used for peaceful purposes, so we did not have to have nuclear weapons to shuffle around the countryside. However, that is not the case. In addition, I want to remind y'all that the US has been transporting those stores of nuclear devices to a secure facility where they are being disassembled. Would you prefer that the DOD build a recycling plant a few blocks down from the local high-school and do the work at the storage location of the warheads? I would think not....I would rather see them transported to a recycling facility that is experienced and out of the population dense areas of the USA.
pleasant dreams

VERY thinly disguised anti nuclear agenda piece (5, Insightful)

dell623 (2021586) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098091)

What exactly is the point of this piece? To inform us that heavily armoured and secured nuclear cargo moves across the U.S, is that such a massive surprise? 'Tom Clements' is not a 'nuclear security watchdog', he is an anti nuclear activist, working for the heavily anti nuclear lobby group called Friends of the Earth. It is extremely disingenuous to present him as an expert, by definition he has no clue about the kind of security concerns involved. His comments suggest that the 'nuclear weapons on the highway' are armed devices that would go off if the driver goes in the wrong lane or takes a sharp turn. A terrorist capable of breaking through the kind of defences these trucks have would be able to cause a lot more damage by directing those efforts towards the nearest busy downtown area. There is nothing to suggest that there was any security breach in any of the incidents mentioned, that the security arrangements didn't work as intended and that any lives were put at risk.

Re:VERY thinly disguised anti nuclear agenda piece (1)

Dr. Tom (23206) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098245)

yeah, you all know they can't use the startrek transporter

this is just a reaction to the approval of several new reactors

yes, they need security, and it sounds like they have pretty damn good security

openness is best; if the enemy have all the information and STILL can't get in, that's pretty safe

Re:VERY thinly disguised anti nuclear agenda piece (1)

kqc7011 (525426) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098275)

Not very thinly disguised at all.

Re:VERY thinly disguised anti nuclear agenda piece (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098319)

It's just more sensationalist anti-American BS that Slashdot calls "stuff that matters". Oh, and thanks to Mother Jones, the bad guys of the week (China, Al Queda, whoever else) have a pretty graphic showing nuclear facilities and transportation routes.

Placards (3, Insightful)

smurd (48976) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098095)

I hope they have their own cleanup and recovery team following them at all times. Since the pictures show a truck with no placards, any normal Emergency Services team must be deemed expendable.

Re:Placards (1)

u38cg (607297) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098137)

Or perhaps the people that package these things have the sense to put them in something rather safer than a cardboard box.

Re:Placards (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098289)

Now, now, anyone that does things that you don't like must be dumberer than you. That's essentially the core message of all politics - and this story is all politics.

Re:Placards (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098157)

Ever considered that the containers used are designed to withstand an accident? They do test the containers for that. Worry more about those chlorine tankers passing through every day instead.

Re:Placards (1)

smurd (48976) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098361)

The point was, I don't have to worry about Chlorine Tankers, I can see the big 1017 Chlorine Placard from a distance and wear the appropriate PPE. At least I know what I'm getting into. I realize they package it appropriately, but I would prefer *NOT* to bet my life on it (or at least make an informed decision).

Sounds like (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098109)

Some weird setup for a Tom Clancy or 24 plot.

Is it just me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098139)

Or does this sound exactly like a prequel to Blast Corps for the Nintendo 64?

US, Pakistan, Nukes (3, Interesting)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098145)

Anybody remember the Atlantic story [theatlantic.com] from a while ago about Pakistan transporting its nukes?

It was presented as "Oh noes, they move their nukes in ordinary trucks [theatlanticwire.com] instead of military convoys. Maybe we should invade them and secure their arsenal."

Lo and behold, the DoE is using the same method in the US.

NCIS (2)

Sollord (888521) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098227)

This the plot of an old NCIS LA episode... The only way Hollywood could come up with a way to realistically steal a nuke was to have it be an inside job and even then it was just to manipulate the stock market. Even then I highly doubt they ship live nukes with the detonator installed via trucks. If they're gonna move live fully armed nukes they'll strap them to a bomber I know the anti-nuke crowd hate the DOE and the military but they're aren't recklessly stupid. Everyone knows they only do stupid shit when the Air Force puts them on bombers.

Re:NCIS (1)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098271)

If they're gonna move live fully armed nukes they'll strap them to a bomber...

AFAIK, they're not even armed if strapped to a plane which is flying into mission, the detonator is only placed in the bomb (and the bomb therefor armed) the moment it's going to be dropped.

Re:NCIS (2)

Sollord (888521) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098349)

The detonator has to be in the bomb somewhere to get in or on the bomber since it's not likely they can crawl out on the wings of a B52 or in the bomb bay B1/B2 and slip it in

Wouldn't it be truly ironic (0)

silentcoder (1241496) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098263)

If the largest stockpiler of nuclear weapons left in the world managed to turn only itself into a gigantic glass parking lot through an accident ?

A vision of the Apocalypse: (1)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098285)

Rick Santorum is president of a country criss-crossed by trucks hauling nukes, day and night. Oh thou emblems of uselessness.

get (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39098309)

over it, douche

Armed trucks? We do it differently in the UK! (0)

SomethingOrOther (521702) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098321)

Comedian / Protestor Mark Thomas assists one of the UK trains carrying flasks of nuclear material over a level crossing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdBT6tGsGLY [youtube.com]

We are more laid back in the UK. No US style special ops truckers armed to the teeth for us :o)

Re:Armed trucks? We do it differently in the UK! (0)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098379)

We are more laid back in the UK. No US style special ops truckers armed to the teeth for us :o)

Thank you! That is why the US nukes are safe from attack. Anyone who wants to grab nuclear material will head to the easiest source: the UK.

Is the unthinkable possible? (5, Interesting)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098371)

Hypothetically, could terrorists or a determined government such as the Iranians steal nuclear weapons from a convoy like this?

Well, thinking about the problem step by step. How COULD an evil entity with a lot of resources (but not enough resources to make a bomb from scratch) steal a nuke?

First, they have to KNOW which convoy has the actual warheads, versus merely parts. Theoretically, secretly placed cameras outside the military bases known to have nukes being sent for disassembly could spot a convoy. If the convoys are multiple trucks in a row, alone with obvious escort vehicles, then MAYBE those are the ones with the bombs.

This is where the U.S. government might or might not be sneaky about it. One obvious trick would be to use decoy convoys that are heavily armed and escorted, and then to slip the truck with the actual warheads in with a bunch of trucks leaving the post returning from food deliveries. And to space the unmarked escort vehicles out so that it isn't obvious which truck they are protecting.

And remember, from the point of view of the Iranian terrorists, this is a trick that could only work once. Once they try to steal a bomb, the U.S. government would probably just cease transporting nukes by road at all, forever.

So they have to KNOW which truck it is. So they need a traitor, no other way. That would probably be difficult. If some sleeper agent tried to enlist tommorow, and to steer their career towards this area of the military, what are the chances they would succeed? I have no idea, but I am guessing that the military assigns people to sensitive positions like this with some degree of randomness. The terrorist sleeper agent could easily end up, even if they passed all the security checks, somewhere completely unrelated.

Perhaps they could replace a civilian contractor working on the post somewhere close enough to plant a bug or something. Dunno.

Ok, so the terrorists somehow know which truck. Now they need to stop the truck. They have to get ahead of it and set up an ambush.

Here's where this is somewhat plausible : in some rural stretch of road, far away from a populated area or military base, with terrain on either side of the road unable to support a truck, the terrorists set up their ambush. They stage an accident to cause the trucks to stop, and use fifty caliber or 20 millimeter rifles to disable the engines of the trucks. They then need enough shooters to win a gunbattle against the escorts AND the QRF. Who have heavy weapons and special forces training.

How many might it take? 50 men? A hundred? And all of them have to keep quiet until the attack. NONE of them would survive the retaliation, participating in something like this would be a guaranteed life prison sentence or death penalty. Probably the death penalty.

Anyways, the terrorists use armor piecing ammo from 50 caliber or 20 millimeter rifles to shoot through the armor of all the escort vehicles and the trucks. They attempt to jam the radios used by the escorts. They now have to somehow recover the warheads.

This is where surprises come in. How about a claymore mine embedded in the side of one of the trailers? Or some other defense? What if these convoys are escorted by attack helicopters? There's a lot of things that a traitor might not necessarily know about.

Ok, so they do manage to get to the trailers, and they use shaped charges to slice through the armored metal of the trailers. They find a warhead, and they have a cargo lift to remove it.

How long does this take? The moment the word gets out, EVERY available resources, every soldier, every jet, every cop, everything is going to be mobilized to stop these people. But this does take time, and if the terrorists are well equipped with lifting equipment and the right tools, they might manage to load the bombs up and attempt their escape. This is where even 1 surviving special forces commando trucker could make a difference, right out of a movie like Under Siege 2. I can just picture a commando toting his M-460 sneaking out the passenger door of his cab and gunning down 20 terrorists before they find him. Or throwing grenades, which would probably be more likely to disrupt things.

In any case, suppose the terrorists do get the bombs loaded up. Now, using motor vehicles would probably fail. EVERY road anywhere is going to be blocked. If I were in charge of the response to this, I would order the local police departments to lock down every last road in a 100 mile radius. A helicopter might work, or a light, quiet aircraft with a low radar cross section. Although, the problem is that light, quiet aircraft wouldn't have enough cargo capacity to carry a warhead.

In any case, suppose the terrorists do escape. Here's where the trump card comes in. If *I* were in charge of nuclear weapons transport, I would make sure that complete warheads are NEVER, EVER transported. A critical, completely irreplacable part MUST be removed from each warhead first, and this part needs to be IMPOSSIBLE to manufacture without already having the same resources you need to make a nuke in the first place. (as in a component made of plutonium or containing tritium, etc...NOT an electronic circuit). The critical parts would be transported via air.

Then again, perhaps the U.S. government is overconfident and/or dumb. After all, they've been in possession of nukes for at least 60 years and no one has stolen one yet.

So the terrorists have a nuke. I would expect each warhead has a LoJack equivalent on it, so they are transporting it inside a faraday cage to prevent it being tracked. They do manage to get the warhead into the anonymity of a major city, a place far too large to search. (which I would guess the government WOULD attempt to search house to house, building to building if they had any idea at all where to look) A team of technicians gets to work on the bomb to prepare it for use.

Is this part even physically possible? We know that U.S. nukes have many, many security features to make them unable to detonate unless a large number of conditions are met. It's quite possible that there is no real way to hotwire a nuke to blow up. Then again, maybe there is. Each sensor is just a sensor, and someone knows how to maintain them. Bank robbers have managed to jimmy the security on bank vaults, how can a warhead be that much more complex? With that said, there's got to be a very small number of people who know one way or another if a nuclear warhead could be hotwired even in principle, and they would need to be part of this conspiracy.

Of course, once the terrorists have a working nuke, it's game over. Well, maybe. A JDAM dropped right on the warhead would prevent it from going off, so the idea of holding a city hostage with a nuclear deadman switch (aka the movie True Lies) is probably not feasible.

So is it POSSIBLE? Yeah, it probably is. PLAUSIBLE? Not really. Dozens, probably hundreds of well trained and educated people would have to conspire on this. Several of them would need trusted positions within the U.S. military itself. And what could rationally cause them to embark on such an effort? Money? Hard to spend it if you're dead or in prison forever. Religion? I think even the hardest of religious zealots would have trouble justifying the murder of hundreds of thousands (or millions) of innocent people. And all it takes is for 1 to make a phone call, and it's all over.

I have a great idea now (1)

davidbrit2 (775091) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098445)

This Saturday on FOX Kids, it's the all new Nuclear Truckers, followed by Swamp Thing!
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