Thursday, July 27, 2006; 10:00 AM
VINCA, Serbia -- The Vinca reactor stands still, its decrepit innards purged of their unused weapons-grade fuel. But it remains Serbia's little shop of nuclear horrors, and a potential magnet for terrorists.
That makes it representative of the next step in the world's quest to lift the threat of nuclear material falling into the wrong hands _ first by taking control of the fuel that makes atomic bombs, and now by tackling the lesser but still potent menace of a dirty bomb, meaning radiation spread by blowing up radioactive material with conventional explosives.
At the Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences outside Belgrade, there are only a few armed guards in sight, and the barbed-wire fence around the 48-acre facility is only as tall as a man.For would-be terrorists, "it's almost like a candy store," says Mike Durst, the International Atomic Energy Agency's point man working to strip Vinca of its attraction to nuclear thieves.