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Inside America's Nuclear Bomb Squad

Date: 01-17-09
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Jeffrey T. Richelson, Open Lines

In the first half of the program, author and intelligence expert Jeffrey Richelson talked about the Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST), a secret government agency that responds to nuclear terrorism threats. NEST was formed in 1974, Richelson said, after the FBI received a letter from a group claiming to have planted a nuclear device in Boston. Los Alamos National Lab physicist William Chambers was asked to assemble a team of specialists to deal with the Boston incident. However, the situation was resolved before the group could fully prepare to deal with it, Richelson noted.

Richelson estimated the elite agency is currently comprised of 600 to 800 'hard scientists' pulled from national laboratories and energy department contractors. He said NEST recruits hold day jobs and are called upon in case of emergency. According to Richelson, the team has never dealt with an actual nuclear threat, but they have participated in several operations since their inception.

In 1980, NEST was called in to a Nevada hotel to disable a sophisticated (nonnuclear) bomb. Their attempt failed and the bomb went off, destroying the building, Richelson said. The team also assisted in the recovery of radioactive debris from a fallen Soviet satellite in 1979. Richelson suggested NEST would be in Washington D.C., proactively looking for nuclear threats ahead of Tuesday's inauguration ceremonies.

Open Lines

Ian hosted Open Lines during the last two hours of the show. Don in Pennsylvania wondered why no one has designed a steam engine to work in a modern automobile. He said nuclear power could be used to to create the necessary steam. David in Los Angeles did not think a steam-powered car was practical, but thought a vehicle could be developed using the same technology found in a hydrotorch.

Ian also helped Alex in Montreal better understand a recurring dream he's been having for the last month and a half. In his dream, Alex wakes up in a Matrix-like environment (with colonies of humans hooked up to generators), where a gray alien pokes him in the forehead and causes him to float in the air. Alex said he believes the dream is a warning about the year 2012. Ian suggested the dream may be telling Alex to accomplish something before time runs out.

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