Rescuing a Potential Nuke from the Chile Quake

Inside a top-secret program to keep nuclear material from getting into the hands of terrorists

Enrique Siques for TIME

A Chilean police officer guards a cask containing Hightly Enriched uranium at the La Reina nuclear reactor in Santiago, Chile.

Correction appended April 8, 2010

Andrew Bieniawski was in bed when the earthquake struck. On Feb. 26, Bieniawski, the assistant deputy administrator for the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), had arrived in Santiago, Chile, to join a group of scientists and nuclear engineers on a top-secret mission to remove a potential nuclear bomb from the country. Around 40 lb. (18 kg) of highly enriched uranium (HEU) — with enough latent energy to destroy a portion of a city — had already been inventoried, secured and made ready for transport to a highly secure facility in the U.S. Running ahead...

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