U.S. Wires Ukraine With Radiation Sensors to Detect Nuclear Blasts

The United States is wiring Ukraine with sensors that can detect‌‌ bursts of radiation from a nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb and can confirm the identity of the attacker.

In part, the goal is to make sure that if Russia detonates a radioactive weapon on Ukrainian soil, its atomic signature and Moscow’s culpability could be verified.

Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine 14 months ago, experts have worried about whether President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would use nuclear arms in combat for the first time since the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The preparations, mentioned last month in a House hearing and detailed Wednesday by the National Nuclear Security Administration, a federal agency that is part of the Energy Department, seem to constitute the hardest evidence to date that Washington is taking concrete steps to prepare for the worst possible outcomes of the invasion of Ukraine, Europe’s second largest nation.

The Nuclear Emergency Support Team, or NEST, a shadowy unit of atomic experts run by the security agency, is working with Ukraine to deploy the radiation sensors, train personnel, monitor data and warn of deadly radiation.

In a statement sent to The New York Times in response to a reporter’s question, the agency said the network of atomic sensors was being deployed “throughout the region” and would have the ability “to characterize the size, location and effects of any nuclear explosion.” Additionally, it said the deployed sensors would deny Russia “any opportunity to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine without attribution.”

That statement goes to the fog of nuclear war and how the United States could use the new system to pierce it.

In one scenario, Washington could use information gathered by the network to rule out the possibility of misidentifying the attacker who set off a nuclear blast. That might seem like an unnecessary step given the distinctiveness of a mushroom cloud. But if a weapon was delivered by a truck, tank or boat instead of a conspicuous missile with a trackable flight path, figuring out its origins might prove near impossible.

Public knowledge of such defensive planning, nuclear experts say, can deter Moscow by letting it know that Washington can expose what is called a false-flag operation.

For instance, Moscow could falsely claim that Kyiv set off a nuclear blast on the battlefield to try to draw the West into deeper war assistance. But in theory, with the sensor network in place, Washington would be able to point to its own nuclear attribution analyses to reveal that Moscow was in fact the attacker.

Now, this newly acquired capability is being used on foreign soil in the context of a potential nuclear war or a Russian attack on Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors at four power generation sites.

“If a nuclear emergency were to occur in Ukraine, whether a radiation release from a nuclear reactor or a nuclear weapon detonation,” the security agency said in its statement, “scientific analyses would be rapidly provided to U.S. government authorities and decision-making centers in Ukraine and the region to make actionable, technically informed decisions to protect public health and safety.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.