STOCKHOLM - Terrorists with access to nuclear material could make a nuclear bomb big enough to lay waste to a vast area, a report published Jan. 8 by a Swedish defense agency researching the matter for the past two years said.
"The most difficult thing is to get hold of the nuclear material, but once they have that, it wouldn't be too hard for terrorists to make a nuclear weapon... and there is a certain chance that it would cause an explosion almost as big as the one we saw in Hiroshima," Gunnar Arbman, the head scientist at the Swedish Defense Research Agency (FOI), said.
Prodded by the terrorist attacks on the United States, since 2002 FOI, a branch of the Swedish Defense Department, has been researching how likely it is that terrorists could create and use nuclear weapons.
While Sweden may not seem like the most likely place to look into the production of nuclear weapons, Arbman insisted that the country still has a lot of useful expertise in the area dating back to the 1950s, when it launched a later abandoned program to acquire nuclear weapons.
The most reassuring conclusion reached in the report is that actually producing the nuclear material needed to make such weapons would be far too difficult for any terrorist group.
"But it is not impossible to steal or to buy the material illegally," Arbman pointed out.
"The greatest risk is inside nuclear powers... like Russia, Pakistan, India and Iran. The United States, England and France seem to have very good security," he said.
Even with the material in hand, though, not just anyone has the know-how to put together a nuclear device.
"The people doing this couldn't just be car repairmen. They would probably have to be educated physicists or chemists," Arbman said.