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Nukes On The Loose?

Retired U.S. Air Force General Eugene Habiger is the only American to see first hand the way Russians guard their nuclear weapons, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.

He says the chances are slim that any of Russia's 25,000 nuclear weapons will ever be launched lost or stolen.

"The Russians are very serious, deadly serious about the safety and security of their nuclear weapons," he says. "In some areas, their procedures are more conservative than what we practice here in the United States."

However, the real concern is not the weapons, but the more than 1,500 tons of nuclear material stored at sites all over Russia. The small amount needed to make a bomb is alarmingly easy to steal.

"In many of the facilities there is no real protection whatsoever," says Paul Robinson, the man in charge of helping the Russians get their nuclear material under lock and key.

In fact, no one is even sure exactly how much there is.


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There is increasing concern that disgruntled workers at top-secret facilities where Russian nuclear material is produced may sell some of it on the black market.

Highlighting those concerns is a month-old at two nuclear weapon-design laboratories where have not received their pay.

The Russian navy uses enriched uranium to power its submarines, and there are two known instances in which sailors stole several pounds. In both cases, however, the culprits were caught before they could sell it.


It takes only 10 lbs. of properly treated plutonium to create a bomb

"I think it's a race to try and get all of the material under safeguards before some of it does get bartered or sold" -- that is, if it hasn't already happened -- says Robinson.

All it takes is about 10 pounds of properly enriched uranium or plutonium to make a bomb.

Reported by David Martin
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