Big Rigs With Bombs

Adam Weinstein’s got an eye-opener of a post over at MoJo today on the Office of Secure Transportation (OST) and their network of nuclear 18-wheelers.

As you weave through interstate traffic, you’re unlikely to notice another plain-looking Peterbilt tractor-trailer rolling along in the right-hand lane. The government plates and array of antennas jutting from the cab’s roof would hardly register. You’d have no idea that inside the cab an armed federal agent operates a host of electronic countermeasures to keep outsiders from accessing his heavily armored cargo: a nuclear warhead with enough destructive power to level downtown San Francisco.

That’s the way the Office of Secure Transportation (OST) wants it. At a cost of $250 million a year, nearly 600 couriers employed by this secretive agency within the US Department of Energy use some of the nation’s busiest roads to move America’s radioactive material wherever it needs to go””from a variety of labs, reactors and military bases, to the nation’s Pantex bomb-assembly plant in Amarillo, Texas, to the Savannah River facility. Most of the shipments are bombs or weapon components; some are radioactive metals for research or fuel for Navy ships and submarines. The shipments are on the move about once a week.

Oh, and the armored trucks are designed to defend themselves, possibly with a robotic 40mm machine gun. What could possibly go wrong? How about “spills, problems with drinking on the job, weapons violations, and even criminal activity” – not to mention a terror attack that could kill 18,000?

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • They call it “the ghost fleet”, because a very few selected people actually know who is carrying what. Even the drivers don’t know the full truth, since there are far more decoys than real trucks.
    Fully capable nuclear weapons are never transported in this manner, only weapons that have been broken down into trigger and payload components, which are transported separately.
    The trucks may look ‘normal’ from the outside, but the contents is not just packed in cardboard boxes and Styrofoam peanuts.
    The drivers actually are very lightly armed, but they trucks themselves are constantly monitored for position and condition, have multiple alarms, etc.
    Like someone said above, I would worry much more about our railways. A few months ago just a couple of miles from our house a train ploughed into the back of another train on the same track, pushed through the last 5 wagons utterly demolishing them, before derailing the 3 first engines and traveling another block along a dirt road. If one wagon load of ammonia had been demolished we are looking at 100’s of dead, and that would be a relatively benign chemical compared to what those railcars regularly carry.

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