The first in-depth examination of NEST: America's super-secret government agency operating to prevent nuclear terrorist attacks.
Jeffrey T. Richelson reveals the history of the Nuclear Emergency Support Team, from the events leading to its creation in 1974 to today. Defusing Armageddon provides a behind-the-scenes look at NEST's personnel, operations, and detection and disablement equipment--employed in response to attempts at nuclear extortion, lost and stolen nuclear material, crashed nuclear-powered Soviet satellites, and al Qaeda's quest for nuclear weapons. Richelson traces the Cosmos satellite that crashed into the Canadian wilderness; nuclear threats to Los Angeles, New York, and other cities; and the surveillance of Muslim sites in the United States after 9/11. Relying on recently declassified documents and interviews with former NEST personnel, Richelson's extensive research reveals how NEST operated during the Cold War, how the agency has evolved, and its current efforts to reduce the chance of a nuclear device decimating an American city.
Created in 1974 and comprising skilled scientists and engineers, the Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) deals with threats of nuclear terrorism, tracks down lost or stolen nuclear material and provides technical assistance in disposing of it. In fact, according to Richelson, most threats are hoaxes or extortion schemes, and no genuine nuclear terrorist plot has come near to succeeding. Despite the lack of cliffhangers, Richelson tells plenty of gripping stories of H-bombs dropping out of planes, reactors misbehaving and a nuclear-powered Russian satellite crashing to earth. A National Security Archive senior fellow, Richelson (Spying on the Bomb) devotes most of the book to a meticulous history of NEST's makeup, training, the persistent squabbling over who controls it (currently the Department of Energy), and many important if undramatic missions such as helping ex-Soviet nations secure their nuclear stockpiles. The book makes a convincing and troubling case that much of the world's nuclear material remains in the hands of institutions and governments incompetent to protect it a situation that promises to keep NEST busy. 16 pages of illus., 4 maps.