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Kyrgyz physicist debunks Bin-Ladin's alleged nuclear prospects
Source: Chuyskiye Izvestiya, Bishkek, in Russian 30 Nov 01 p4

Asked what would happen if Bin-Ladin decided to use the nuclear weapons he is suspected of having, Kyrgyz physicist Viktor Gurovich said that Bin-Ladin would exterminate himself as he had no known means of delivery and start-up devices. Gurovich also said that Kyrgyzstan does not need to create its own A-bomb and lamented the fact that nuclear weapons are potentially accessible to extremist organizations rather than in the hands of stable states. The following is an excerpt from report entitled "The weapon of the intellect" by Kyrgyz newspaper Chuyskiye Izvestiya on 30 November; subheadings as published

One could listen to well-known physicist Viktor Gurovich for hours on end. His rare blend of intellect, humour and erudition makes him an unusually interesting interlocutor. His life is literally filled with the most interesting episodes. Fortune chanced to bring him together with one of the fathers of the Soviet A-bomb, thrice hero of socialist labour Academician Yakov Zeldovich. He knew [Russian nuclear physicist and human-rights advocate] Andrey Sakharov and [Academician] Mstislav Keldysh. He was a pupil of well-known physicist Kirill Stanyukovich. So, today our guest is distinguished scientist of the Kyrgyz Republic, professor of the Kyrgyz-Russian Slav University, Viktor Tsalevich Gurovich. In line with President Askar Akayev's decree, he was recently awarded the Datsk medal.

[Passage omitted: on Gurovich' relations with the famous physicists; Keldysh helped Gurovich, who came from Kyrgyzstan, to find accommodation in the hostel of the Physics Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences]

Do we need nuclear weapons?

[Correspondent] It's most likely that Keldysh knew about Kyrgyzstan for other reasons as well. Wasn't the first uranium ore extracted here?

[Gurovich] It is completely true. The first bomb was made from Kyrgyz raw material, although subsequent processing of uranium and plutonium was carried out in Russia. Therefore, our republic was directly involved in the creation of nuclear weapons.

In dealing with the history of our science, I discover wonderful things. There is an ascent to a high-altitude station for studying space rays in the Murgab area in southern Kyrgyzstan. It turned out that [Joseph] Stalin and [Lavrenti] Beria took a person interest in it. The station was built on their initiative and is still working. This is a unique laboratory. It yields astonishing information. The study of the interaction of fundamental particles coming from space is of great practical importance. The wisdom of the creators of our nuclear weapons was that they carried out research very widely, not restricting their task only to creating the bomb. Incidentally, since the station is located on our territory, we could cooperate with the Russians and be involved in research. This is no short-term task.

[Correspondent] Viktor Tsalevich, what do you think, should Kyrgyzstan think about having its own A-bomb, even if only for self-defence?

[Gurovich] Kyrgyzstan does not need it. But supposing such a task was set. It involves two elements. We primarily need something that will explode - either "pump out" the necessary isotope 235 from a huge quantity of uranium by employing electromagnetic or diffusion methods, or we must turn out plutonium in the reactor.

But there is the second element: it cannot be ruled out theoretically that the "explosive" can be bought on the side. I do not say that a ready-made bomb can be bought, but its components may become an illegal commodity. And an expert who knows the technology of how to produce weapons of mass destruction can easily assemble a bomb.

Bombs also happen to be bad

[Correspondent] So, if we really wanted to, would we be able to produce our own nuclear weapons?

[Gurovich] Of course, theoretically. Suppose we have ready-made materials for an A-bomb, it would not be difficult to make a bad version.

[Correspondent] What does you mean - a bad version?

[Gurovich] To put it simply, suppose you have two pieces of uranium, you gathered critical energy, connected them and - from the physics point of view an explosion occurred, but no explosion has occurred from the hydrodynamic point of view.

[Passage omitted: producing the explosion is highly complex]

[Correspondent] All those around us have acquired nuclear weapons and claim that it is for self-defence... [ellipsis as given]

[Gurovich] Historically, nuclear weapons were intended as a deterrent.

[Passage omitted: US scientists created the first A-bomb and handed some of the information to their Soviet counterparts]

[Gurovich] These days it's terrible that nuclear weapons are potentially accessible to extremist organizations rather than in the hands of stable states. "Portable" versions of the bomb have emerged lately. They can be put into an artillery shell. The basic technology of nuclear weapons production can be found in the open press. Of course, some secrets remain, but they can be put together in principle. This is what is terrible.

[Correspondent] Supposing terrorist Usamah Bin-Ladin, who has been driven into a corner, decides to use the nuclear weapons which he allegedly has. What could this lead to?

[Gurovich] Let's suppose he uses them: he will exterminate himself because he does not have the means of delivery, start-up devices, or at least, these have not yet been identified. Then there is another matter, a vast territory will be contaminated with radiation. If there had been no global confrontation, from which we are gradually moving, away, then mankind would avoid much misfortune.

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