russian roulette

navigation, see below for text
frontline online

join the discussion
What do you think the chances are of a crude nuclear device going off on American soil? What can we do about it?


The threat of a nuclear weapon detonation on American soil is certainly a real one. While we have elaborate detection systems for incoming ICBMs, we are grossly unprepared for a terrorist employing a 1-kiloton suitcase nuclear weapon. It is certainly plausible that a terrorist could plant one of these weapons in prominent location and be far removed from the area by the time the weapon caused its massive destruction.

The vivid description of the destruction a suitcase-sized nuclear weapon would cause in Washington, DC is particularly disconcerting to me as I look at the dome of the Capitol right now from my bedroom window.

We not only have to more aggressively prevent these weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists, but we must also appropriately plan now so we are prepared, should a nuclear event occur. Though the Department of Energy has an elaborate response team to deal with a nuclear emergency (NEST), during the interim hours between detonation and the DoE's arrival on scene, we are remarkably unprepared. Local fire, EMS, and police must be adequately trained and equipped to deal with such an incident. Without a prepared public "safety-net", casualties will increase to the point where no one will be able to deal with them. This because those who came to the rescue, the public safety personnel, are now incapacitated by the same deadly fallout that caused the initial casualties.

Dan Kaniewski
washington, dc


The likelihood of a crude nuclear device being exploded on American soil is probably small, but the threat is potentially horrendous.

What to do about it? This is beyond my level, but I have grave doubts that the current administration is doing anything to significantly mitigate the threat given its failures in almost every one of its responsibilities for the security of the nation.

jay rozen
shawnee mission, kansas


I think the world realizes that we will not be rid of the constant fear of nuclear holocaust until the nuclear weapon is no longer seen as an advantage. This, in turn, will not occur unless the entire world is united under a common government.

Michael Kraynek
erie, pa


There is an unacceptable probability that a nuclear device may explode on American soil. I can not imagine a solution! But when ICBM's are considered, all should be de-alerted immediately and measures to abolish nuclear weapons worldwide should be pursued diligently and quickly.

William Santelmann
lexington, ma


I believe the chances are greater than they ever have been. This will be the plague of the nuclear age. I have been to Russia, and the average Russian people are just like us, but average people are not in charges of these weapons. For our people to say that this is not a threat is foolish. The one commentator was correct, warriors make the best or friends, and the worst enemies. We need good "arms lenght" negioators.

la grange, ky.


I believe the chances of a nuclear explosion occurring in the United Stated sometime in the 21st Century is close to 100%. The reason is general apathy and blithe abhorance of such subjects in polite cocktail society.

Tom Hackney
new york, ny


The U.S. has many enemies, including terrorists who consider themselves freedom fighters. Wouldn't they consider it a triumph to explode a small nuclear bomb in one of our major cities!

Arthur Berman
scarsdale, new york


I am a Canadian citizen living in a remote northern Ontariocommunity that has a NORAD base...i am more concerned now than ever before.I think ALL NUCLEAR devices should be dismantled or destroyed. Mans' ultimate folly is his own destruction!

Dave McIntyre
northbay, ontario,canada

home . atomic suitcase bombs .a close call? .a nuclear smuggling scenario .russia's nuclear complex .debating the future .interviews .readings
join the discussion .synopsis .links .press .tapes & transcripts
frontline online .pbs online

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation