Answer: As a citizen, you should be pressing your state and local elected officials for answers to your important questions.
Question 4. Eugenia writes: How will we know where we are supposed to evacuate to if a nuclear blast were to occur? Is this something we can prepare for in advance?
Answer: For information on how to prepare for a range of terrorist attacks, visit the Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/beprepared/, or the Department of Homeland Security: http://www.ready.gov/.
Question 5. Joel asks: Has the U.S. inventory of current and spent nuclear materials been accounted for in full?
Answer: To the best of our knowledge, the entire U.S. inventory of nuclear materials has been accounted for.
Question 6. Ed asks: It has been reported that there are suitcase nukes from the Russian Cold War days missing from their inventory and that they may be already in the United States to be used by terrorists. Can they still be used? If this were true, what would the average Joe do to prepare for such an event? What do I tell my daughter who is going to school in the city of Tampa, Fla., where such an event would be very likely to occur with McDill (Southern Command) being in the blast zone.
Answer: In 1997, General Alexander Lebed, Boris Yeltsin's national security advisor, acknowledged to CBS News' "60 Minutes" that 84 of 132 KGB "suitcase" nuclear weapons were not accounted for in Russia. Lebed later recanted his statement. The Russian line has remained that no such weapons were made and that all their nuclear materials are secure. The bottom line is that it is likely Russia made small-yield nuclear weapons that could be carried by one person, and that we cannot say with any certainty that such weapons did not go missing.
If a suitcase nuclear weapon were stolen it might have locks and environmental sensing devices, which nuclear thieves could likely overcome in a few days. It is possible that the weapon would fail to detonate because it would not have been serviced recently. Terrorists could still cannibalize the weapon for the fissile material with which they could make a crude nuclear bomb.
Question 7. Richard writes: Hello Graham -- Having been born on 8/6/45, I have a more than passing interest on the subject of nukes. I have read articles by certain scientists minimizing the danger of a so-called "dirty bomb," stating that in fact the danger is primarily psychological rather than physical. What is your opinion?
Answer: I agree. Experts call dirty bombs a weapon of mass disruption. Those who die from dirty bomb will be killed by the bomb, e.g. the dynamite, not the radioactivity. For more specifics, see the FAQs at http://www.nuclearterror.org/.
Question 8. Kevin asks: In the ABC News coverage this week, there is advice that in case one is near a nuclear blast you should turn on your radio or TV and drive away in a car. Wouldn't such a blast generate an "EMP" (electromagnetic pulse) that would render broadcast receivers and motor vehicles useless?
Answer: A large nuclear detonation in the atmosphere could cause widespread damage to all electronic components nearby. A nuclear terror attack, however, would likely be smaller in terms of destructive power and on the ground. While it could "fry" local radio and cell-phone towers, its damage to electronic components would likely be more localized.