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UK recalls nuclear bomb plans

Blue danube
The Blue Danube bomb was Britain's nuclear deterrent for 8 years in the 1950s  

LONDON, England -- Britain's Ministry of Defence has recalled information on the make-up of an atomic bomb from the UK's Public Records Office.

On Monday the ministry confirmed to CNN it had made public information describing the making of a nuclear bomb in detail.

The plans give complete cross-sections, precise measurements and full details of materials used for all the components, including the plutonium core and the initiator that sets off the chain reaction causing the blast.

Conservative opposition defence spokesman Bernard Jenkin had attacked the move as "a monstrous free gift to terrorists" who he said could use the information to create a do-it-yourself atomic weapon.

The Public Records Office, where the public can view state documents after a statutory period of time, said on Tuesday that the ministry had removed the files on Monday to review their contents.

"We are very concerned as is the Ministry of Defence that there may be something inappropriate in the files," a spokeswoman told The Associated Press.

"The files have gone back to the ministry so that they can assess them," she added.

The plans relate to Britain's first operational nuclear bomb, the 15 kilotonne Blue Danube, which was in service with the Royal Air Force's B-bomber fleet from 1953 to 1961.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman confirmed to CNN that information relating to the Blue Danube bomb had been declassified seven years ago and put in the public domain at the records office.

Blue Danube is tested on a range in Australia in 1956
Blue Danube is tested on a range in Australia in 1956  

A spokesman told AP the documents would be of limited use to "anybody with intent," given the age of the weapon and the fact

that it went out of use many years ago, but officials were reviewing the matter.

"We are reviewing whether in this case an appropriate balance was struck between openness and safeguards," he said.

Observers say it seems likely that the decision was taken in the light of the amount of detailed material on nuclear weapons already posted on the Internet, and the judgment that the information from 40 years ago posed no threat.

Making the bomb would require the possession of weapons-grade plutonium.

Last month researchers based at Stanford University in the United States said they had compiled a database of lost, stolen and misplaced nuclear material.

Their research showed that over the past 10 years, at least 88 pounds (40kg) of weapons-usable plutonium and uranium had been stolen from poorly protected facilities in the former Soviet Union. Most but not all of the material was eventually recovered.

Russia has said its nuclear inventory is fully accounted for.

Last month it was revealed that the U.S. had received an alert in October that terrorists were planning an attack using a smuggled Russian nuclear bomb. The plot was later deemed "not credible."


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