At present the total nuclear arsenal of the world is no less than 27,000 nuclear warheads. Nine countries in the world (probably) have nuclear weapons and a dozen more have access to the resources and technology needed to produce such a weapon.
Nuclear Secrets is a series of spy thrillers exploring the key turning-points in the race for nuclear supremacy. From the development of the A-bomb, via the Cuban missile crisis, to the spread of nuclear weapons to the Middle East and beyond, each story is told through the eyes of the men who risked everything to proliferate their nuclear secrets and those who tried to stop them. Nuclear weapons and the actions of these men have transformed the face of war – and now the world could pay the price.
A Dune Films, BBC/National Geographic Channel and NDR Norddeutscher Rundfunk Co-production
Part 1: Vanunu and the Bomb
Mordechai Va’anunu was the man who was determined to tell the world about Israel’s nuclear capabilities and, by doing so, created a world scandal. Va’anunu worked as a nuclear technician between 1977 and 1985, separating plutonium from uranium at the top-secret Israeli nuclear facility. Disgusted by how Israel treated him, and with a growing awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons, Va’anunu collected evidence by taking 60 photos of the top-secret plutonium plant. Fast forward to September 1986, when The Sunday Times brought Vanunu to London and kept him isolated while they verified his story about Israel’s nuclear plant. After weeks of isolation in a hotel, he popped out for a newspaper. A beautiful blonde by the news stand caught his eye and he followed her until he plucked up the courage to speak to the mysterious woman. They agreed to meet several more times and Cindy, as she was known to him, bought tickets for them to take a short break in Rome. This, however, was to be Va’anunu’s downfall. Cindy was, in fact, a secret agent for Mossad, the Israeli secret service. He was drugged and smuggled back to Israel where he was tried and jailed for 18 years. He was released last year but was re-arrested for violating his conditions. While he remains a traitor to Israelis, he is heralded as a saviour for nuclear openness to many around the world.
Part 2: The Terror Trader
Could the father of the Pakistani bomb be the creator of the largest nuclear-smuggling ring ever known? This story reveals a cat-and-mouse tale of an out-of-control nuclear scientist and Western intelligence. In 1975, a young scientist copied top-secret blueprints from his Dutch Nuclear company. The thief in question was Dr AQ Khan, a Pakistani nuclear scientist who was working in the Netherlands. His job gave him access to the designs of the key nuclear process, Centrifuges. He flew to Pakistan over Christmas in 1975 with his family and wrote to his employers, stating that he had yellow fever. He never returned and went on to live a lavish lifestyle in Pakistan. Dr Khan’s motivation was based by his fierce patriotism and his quest to ensure Pakistan was at the centre of nuclear supremacy. The president of Pakistan placed Khan in charge of his nuclear programme, project 706, and he used his network of contacts from Europe to start it up. In 1998, Khan tested his bomb design and, for the first time, Pakistan revealed itself to the world as a nuclear power. Khan immediately became a national hero. With fame came wealth and the CIA discovered that Khan had acquired a large property empire. The CIA and MI6 were unclear what Khan was up to but, as time went on, the clues grew more alarming. They set up a joint task force which eventually led to Dr Khan’s “nuclear bazaar”. The world saw for the first time the terrifying scale of Khan’s activities. The president of Pakistan placed him under house arrest, where he remains today.