Homeland Security Concedes Suitcase Nukes Do Exist

Homeland Security News and Information

Suitcase Nuclear Bomb Threat

Suitcase Nuclear Bomb Threat

Suitcase Nukes

A suitcase nuke or suitcase bomb is a very compact and portable nuclear weapon and could have the dimensions of 60 x 40 x 20 centimeters or 24 x 16 x 8 inches. The smallest possible bomb-like object would be a single critical mass of plutonium (or U-233) at maximum density under normal conditions.

The Pu-239 weighs 10.5 kg and is 10.1 cm across. It doesn’t take much more than a single critical mass to cause significant explosions ranging from 10-20 tons. These types of weapons can also be as big as two footlockers.

The warhead of a suitcase nuke or suitcase bomb consists of a tube with two pieces of uranium, which, when rammed together, would cause a blast. Some sort of firing unit and a device that would need to be decoded to cause detonation may be included in the “suitcase.”

Another portable weapon is a “backpack” bomb. The Soviet nuclear backpack system was made in the 1960s for use against NATO targets in time of war and consists of three “coffee can-sized” aluminum canisters in a bag. All three must be connected to make a single unit in order to explode. The detonator is about 6 inches long. It has a 3-to-5 kiloton yield, depending on the efficiency of the explosion. It’s kept powered during storage by a battery line connected to the canisters.


External radiation occurs when either part of or all of the body is exposed from an external source, such as when a person is standing near the site of where a radiological device such as a suitcase bomb or suitcase nuke is set off and he or she is exposed to radiation, which can be absorbed by the body or can pass completely through it.

Contamination occurs when radioactive materials in the form of solids, liquids or gases are released into the air and contaminate people externally, internally or both. This happens when body parts such as the skin become contaminated and/or if the harmful material gets inside the body via the lungs, gut or wounds.

Incorporation of radioactive material occurs when body cells, tissues and organs such as bone, liver, thyroid or kidney, are contaminated.

Gamma radiation can travel many meters in the air and many centimeters once in human tissue; therefore they represent a major external threat. Dense material is needed as a shield. Beta radiation can travel meters in air and can moderately penetrate human skin, but clothing and some protection can help. Alpha radiation travels a very short distance through the air and can’t penetrate the skin, but can be harmful if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through open wounds.

Radiation in the first hour after an explosion is about 90 percent, with it going down to about 1 percent of the original level after two days. Radiation only drops to trace levels after 300 hours.


People in the immediate vicinity of a suitcase nuke or suitcase bomb detonation would likely die from the force of the conventional explosion itself. Some survivors of the blast might die of radiation poisoning in the weeks afterward. Those farther away from the explosion might suffer radiation sickness in the days and weeks afterward, but recover. Over time, risks of cancer in the affected area would rise, but perhaps only slightly.

A mix of physical symptoms must be used to judge the seriousness of exposure. Impact of radiation poisoning also changes if the body has experienced burns or physical trauma. In the case of treatable victims, extensive medical treatment may be needed for more than two months after exposure.

Some symptoms may include vomiting, headache, fatigue, weakness, diarrhea, thermal burn-like skin effects, secondary infections, reoccurring bleeding and hair loss.


If detection and decontamination occurs soon after exposure, about 95 percent of external radioactive material can be removed by taking off the victim’s clothing and shoes and washing with water. Further decontamination may require the use of bleaches or other mild abrasives.

Treatment of a victim within the first six weeks to two months after exposure is vital and is determined by what types of radioactive isotopes to which the victim was exposed.

Medical personnel will treat victims for hemorrhage and shock. Open wounds are usually irrigated to cleanse them of any radioactive traces. Amputation of limbs may occur if a wound is highly contaminated and functional recovery isn’t likely.

If radioactive material is ingested, treatment is given to reduce absorption and enhance excretion and elimination. It includes stomach pumping or giving the victim laxatives or aluminum antacids, among other things.

If radioactive material has gotten into a victim’s internal organs and tissues, treatment includes giving the patient various blocking and diluting agents, such as potassium iodide, to decrease absorption. Mobilizing agents such as ammonium chloride, diuretics, expectorants and inhalants are given to a patient to force the tissues to release the harmful isotopes. Other treatments involve chelating agents. When ingested, these agents bind with some metals more strongly than others to form a stable complex that, when soluble, are more easily excreted through the kidneys.

US Carried Dirty Bombs For Past 25 Years

Elite US troops trained to use backpack nukes

A US backpack nuclear bomb

A US backpack nuclear bomb

Skiing down a mountain and into a battlefield with a nuclear bomb strapped to your back seems like something you’d see only in a James Bond movie, but that’s just one of the things the US elite military personnel were trained to do during the Cold War.
In a detailed report by Foreign Policy, the publication chronicles the creation of the Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SAMD), a portable nuclear weapon that could be carried into battlefield by a single solider. During the Cold War’s final 25 years, Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces were trained to carry these “backpack nukes” beyond enemy lines where, if necessary, they’d be used to destroy valuable infrastructure and keep opposing forces at bay.

Concerned with the Soviet Union’s military advantage over the United States
and its allies in terms of manpower and traditional weaponry, President Dwight Eisenhower looked to enhancing the country’s nuclear capabilities as a way to level the playing field. His “New Look” strategy, however, promised “massive retaliation” to any form of aggression by the Soviet Union – a bold strategy that in reality left the US with little room to maneuver.
“In the event that communist forces launched a limited, non-nuclear attack, the president would have to choose between defeat at the hands of a superior conventional force or a staggeringly disproportionate (and potentially suicidal) strategic nuclear exchange that would kill hundreds of millions of people,” the report stated.
In an attempt to develop targeted nuclear weapons that wouldn’t cause as many casualties, the SAMD was born. Often strapped to a soldier’s back, the 58-pound bomb made it difficult for soldiers to maneuver through a war zone, and those chosen to carry the device – known as the “Green Light” teams – underwent extensive training to ensure they could deliver the bomb, even at the expense of their own lives.
“I think that my first reaction was that I didn’t believe it,” former Green Light member Ken Richter told Foreign Policy. “Because everything that I’d seen prior to that, World War II, showed this huge weapon. And we were going to put it on our backs and carry it? I thought they were joking.”
More powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, though, the SAMD was no laughing matter. US forces would be subjected to eight to 12 hours of training a day when it came to using the device, and in some cases troops would parachute out of planes with the SAMD dangling below them in a protective case, dive underwater with it in a pressurized case, or, yes, ski down a mountain with bomb attached to them.
“I had a lot of people that I interviewed for our team,” Richter recalled. “Once they found out what the mission was, they said, ‘No, thanks. I’d rather go back to Vietnam.’ “
Fortunately, these weapons were never actually used. US allies were not particularly fond of the idea of detonating numerous nuclear devices across their countries, while others within the American military questioned the whole enterprise.
“In our hearts, we knew nobody was going to give control of these to a bunch of big old boys running around the countryside,” Tom Davis, another Green Light member, told Foreign Policy. “We just didn’t believe it was ever going to happen.”
The SADM program was officially halted in 1989, after the Defense and Energy departments found it to be “obsolete.”
This, however, wasn’t the only controversial idea the United States tested during the Cold War. A lawsuit is currently unfolding in federal court concerning a military program that subjected servicemen to various secret drug and chemical experiments. The US hoped to discover new ways to control human behavior, pinpoint weaknesses, hypnotize, and increase an individual’s resistance to torture.
As a result, many former soldiers have come forward claiming that their long-term health problems are a direct product of the experiments conducted on them. The Department of Veterans Affairs has generally declined to cover the health costs of these individuals, though just recently a federal judge ruled the US must notify all veterans of any potential health problems stemming from the experiments.

More Dirty Bombs

Missing radioactive material may pose ‘dirty bomb’ threat: IAEA

More nuclear material missing.

More nuclear material missing.

By Fredrik Dahl
VIENNA Fri Mar 21, 2014 12:32pm EDT
(Reuters) – About 140 cases of missing or unauthorized use of nuclear and radioactive material were reported to the U.N. atomic agency in 2013, highlighting the challenges facing world leaders at a nuclear security summit next week.
Any loss or theft of highly enriched uranium, plutonium or different types of radioactive sources is potentially serious as al Qaeda-style militants could try to use them to make a crude nuclear device or a so-called “dirty bomb”, experts say.
Denis Flory, deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said most of the reported incidents concerned small quantities of radioactive material.
But, “even if they can’t be used for making a nuclear weapon, they can be used in radioactive dispersal devices, which is a concern,” Flory told Reuters in an interview.
In a “dirty bomb”, conventional explosives are used to disperse radiation from a radioactive source, which can be found in hospitals, factories or other places that may not be very well protected.
Holding a third nuclear security summit since 2010, leaders from 53 countries – including U.S. President Barack Obama – are expected to call for more international action to help prevent radical groups from obtaining atomic bombs.
At the March 24-25 meeting in The Hague, they will say that much headway has been made in reducing the risk of nuclear terrorism but also make clear that more must be done to ensure that dangerous substances don’t fall into the wrong hands.
The Dutch hosts say the aim is a summit communique “containing clear agreements” to prevent nuclear terrorism by reducing stockpiles of hazardous nuclear material, better securing such stocks and intensifying international cooperation.
Flory said member states had reported a total of nearly 2,500 cases to the IAEA’s Incident and Trafficking Database since it was set up two decades ago. More than 120 countries take part in this information exchange project, covering theft, sabotage, unauthorized access and illegal transfers.
In 2012, 160 incidents were reported to the IAEA, of which 17 involved possession and related criminal activities, 24 theft or loss and 119 other unauthorized activities, its website says.
“It is continuing, which means there is still a lot of work to do to have that really decrease,” Flory said with respect to the statistics. However, there are also “more and more countries which declare incidents. The number of incidents we don’t know is probably decreasing.”
Because radioactive material is less hard to find and the device easier to make, experts say a “dirty bomb” – which could cause panic and have serious economic and environmental consequences – is a more likely threat than a deadly atom bomb.
Radical groups could theoretically build a crude nuclear bomb if they had the money, technical knowledge and fissile materials needed, analysts say.
One of the biggest challenges ahead is to finally bring into force a 2005 amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM), Flory said.
There are still 27 countries – including the United States – which need to ratify the amendment, which expands the coverage from only the protection of nuclear material in international transport to also include domestic use, transport and storage.
“It is extremely important because this amendment brings a lot of strengthening in the field of nuclear security,” he said.
Harvard University professor Matthew Bunn said this month that a U.S. failure so far to ratify the amended convention “has made it far harder” for Washington to pressure others to do so.
“The problem appears to be a combination of lack of sustained high-level attention by both the administration and Congress and disputes over unrelated issues,” Bunn said.
Flory, who heads the IAEA’s nuclear safety and security department, said he knew that the U.S. administration was “very keen on finishing the process” as soon as possible.
“This is a country where you have a lot of nuclear material, a lot of nuclear facilities and they have a lot of influence on nuclear security.”

The Suitcase Nuke


(Newser) – The US kept quite an arsenal of nuclear bombs and missiles during the Cold War, but not everyone knows about its plans to use “backpack nukes,” reports the Smithsonian via Foreign Policy. Elite troops learned to use the bombs—called B54 Special Atomic Demolition Munitions (SADMs)—in case Communists attacked US-friendly countries like former West Germany. Although heavy, SADMs could fit in a backpack and be transported by parachute-drop, scuba mission, or even on skis. The trick was setting the timer (which was unreliable) and getting far enough away before they went off (although some commanders wanted men to stay behind and protect them).
Luckily they were never used, and units trained in SADMs kept a grim sense of humor about it. “Those who were to conduct the mission were sure that whomever thought this up was using bad hemp,” said an SADM team commander. But backpack nukes served a strategic need: to destroy bridges, roads, and mountain passes in case Russian forces invaded countries where they could easily overwhelm US troops. The only downside: utter devastation. As Cold War tensions faded, the US recalled SADMs from storage depots around the world and eventually retired the project in 1989. “The idea that the world came this close to the use of nuclear weapons on battlefields across the world is entirely unreal,” says Business Insider. “At least we can all be thankful that cooler heads prevailed.”

More Nuclear Material Found in Mexico

Dangerous Radioactive Material was Stolen and Found in Mexico

First Posted: Dec 24, 2013 09:53 AM EST

cobalt 60, radioactive

(Photo : Flickr)

Dangerous radioactive material, used in cancer-treating medicine, was stolen, along with the truck that was carrying the teletheraphy source containing cobalt-60. Tepojaco, a town in the central state of Hildago, was the scene of the crime. The capital, and six of Mexico’s 31 states, were put on alert on Dec. 3, and Mexican authorities were able to recover the material on Thursday of the same week, which had been abandoned in a field.
The family that came across the capsule — two centimeters in diameter — was monitored for health risks after handling the potentially dangerous device, found 0.6 miles away from the truck. The device was later isolated and taken to its original destination at a waste storage facility. However, when the family discovered the open medical device they brought it into their home, which could have potentially led to their deaths due to contamination emitted by the hazardous material.
„We will have to keep this family under medical watch for the sole reason of being near a certain distance from the source,“ The National Commission for Nuclear Safety and Safeguards operations director Mardonio Jiménez told Milenio television, without indicating how many members there were.

Five hundred meter safety perimeters were set around the hazardous material after it was found 43 miles north of Mexico City in Hueypotia. The radioactive source was called „extremely dangerous“ by U.N.’s nuclear watchdog. Two gunmen stole the truck from a service station. The theft which inadvertently led to attention being brought to potential risks that 60 grams of cobalt-60 — the amount that was stolen — which is enough to build crude „dirty bomb,“ though thieves only wanted the truck.
National Security is monitoring the situation, and authorities are still search for the thieves. Meanwhile, the 40,000-population town of Hueypoxtla was reassured that the source is far from the populous. Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said that the Mexican public is safe and will remain that way. The IAEA and CNSNS claim that there are no signs of contamination in the area.
The transport company is being blamed for the incident, failing to have a security escort with the truck as it attempted to make the drive from the hospital in Tijuana.

What is a Suitcase Nuke?

From Weapons and technology

The highest-ranking GRU defector Stanislav Lunev described alleged Soviet plans for using tactical nuclear weapons for sabotage against the United States in the event of war. He described Soviet-made suitcase nukes identified as RA-115s (or RA-115-01s for submersible weapons) which weigh from fifty to sixty pounds. These portable bombs can last for many years if wired to an electric source. “In case there is a loss of power, there is a battery backup. If the battery runs low, the weapon has a transmitter that sends a coded message – either by satellite or directly to a GRU post at a Russian embassy or consulate.” .

Lunev was personally looking for hiding places for weapons caches in the Shenandoah Valley area. He said that “it is surprisingly easy to smuggle nuclear weapons into the US” either across the Mexican border or using a small transport missile that can slip though undetected when launched from a Russian airplane. US Congressman Curt Weldon supported claims by Lunev, but “Weldon said later the FBI discredited Lunev, saying that he exaggerated things.” Searches of the areas identified by Lunev – who admits he never planted any weapons in the US – have been conducted, “but law-enforcement officials have never found such weapons caches, with or without portable nuclear weapons.” in the US.r

Who Needs a Missile For Delivery?

Do Suitcase Nukes Exist?
The answer to the existence question is certainly yes, at least for „trunk size“ devices. Unclassified sources have reported that small nuclear devices were developed by both the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, a direct result of the work on tactical nuclear weapons. These would not fit in a briefcase, but are portable by one or two people.

SADM packing case small atomic munition

The U.S. developed a class of devices called „Atomic Demolition Munitions“ (ADM), intended for use as atomic land mines. ADMs were in the U.S. inventory from the late 1950’s until such weapons were phased out by arms-control agreements in the 1980’s. A version of the ADM for use by Special Forces, the „Special Atomic Demolition Munitions“ (SADM), was suitcase or duffle bag size, weighing less than 100 pounds (photo, left, is SADM packing case). The top photo on this page is from a declassified film showing a demonstration of the SADM in the late 1960s. The exact status of these weapons today is unclear.
The Soviet Union’s small nuclear devices were developed for nuclear mines and possibly for Spetsnaz attacks (Special Forces). In 1997, General Aleksandr Lebed claimed that the Soviet Union created one hundred and fifteen atomic demolition munitions (ADMs), low-yield, one kiloton devices that were small, portable, and without safety devices to prevent unauthorized detonation. Lebed further raised the issue of whether the ADMs were all in proper custody and accounted for. Others have contradicted Lebed — the issue is unsettled, but it is most likely that the Soviets did produce small atomic munitions, similar to the U.S. SADM.