United Nations weapons inspector David Albright once noted that Saddam Hussein's unsuccessful program to build a nuclear weapon in 1990 illustrates how a single bad decision can cause a huge setback.
"Iraq," The New York Times explains, "had extracted highly enriched uranium from research-reactor fuel and had, maybe, barely enough for a bomb. But the manager in charge of casting the metal was so afraid the stuff would spill or get contaminated that he decided to melt it in tiny batches. As a result, so much of the uranium was wasted that he ended up with too little for a bomb."
[As of the turn of the millennium, the total amount of highly enriched uranium and plutonium involved in alleged smuggling attempts fell far short of the 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of highly enriched uranium required to construct a single explosive.]