William Perry briefs Stanford professors on nukes

April 13, 2010 6:59:20 PM PDT
While President Obama hosted a summit on safely securing nuclear weapons grade materials, one of his advisors on that issue was at Stanford briefing professors and researchers on the President's agenda.

The White House is reporting significant success in reducing the threat of a nuclear terrorist attack. Over the past two days of talks, the Obama administration has reached significant agreements from world leaders.

The end of the Cold War was expected to mark an end to the constant threat of nuclear attack, but President Barack Obama is convinced the threat of a nuclear attack from terrorists has actually increased and for the past two days his nuclear security summit has focused on locking down nuclear materials.

At the Port of Oakland, a neutron scanner searches for radioactive traces of nuclear bomb. However, the U.S. is not prepared to scan every container that comes into the country, making Tuesday's announcement from the White House that much more significant.

On Tuesday, the Ukraine, Canada and Mexico agreed to get rid of their stockpiles of highly enriched uranium and the 47 nations attending the nuclear summit say they will follow up on the goal of securing all nuclear materials in the next four years.

"If we want to prevent nuclear terrorism, we'd have to keep the terrorists from getting the material or the bomb in the first place," says former Secretary of Defense William Perry.

Perry has been pointing out the rising threat of nuclear terrorism for more than a decade.

"And when you think of the relative lack of success we've had in keeping drugs from being imported into the country, you can imagine the relative ease of bringing in a piece of plutonium about that big," says Perry.

Plutonium the size of a grapefruit is all it would take to arm a weapon capable of killing tens of thousands. On Tuesday Perry and former Secretary of State George Shultz were part of a briefing on the president's efforts to reduce the threat. The president met with Perry and Shultz just one week ago.

"The world is starting to take this problem seriously and our government I think is in a position of leadership," says Perry.

The biggest area of concern for Perry is Pakistan. He says Pakistan does secure its nuclear weapons and bomb making material, but Pakistan also has an armed insurrection on this border that it so far has been unable to defeat.

"The danger is that governor could conceivably be overthrown," says Perry.

Commonwealth Club President Gloria Duffy negotiated nuclear weapons reduction with Russia when Perry was the secretary of defense.

"There are about 1.6 million kilograms in the world of this type of material that can be directly used to make nuclear weapons," says Duffy.

Duffy says setting up international standards for securing that material is the president's goal.

"The nuclear security summit is the first big international meeting that has ever taken place on just this topic -- preventing terrorists from getting nuclear weapons," says Duffy.

At the close of the summit, the White House announced that China has agreed to join new sanctions to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear enrichment program.

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