The Real Threat of Nuclear Smuggling

This reading was based on the controversy over the threat that nuclear
smuggling poses. It begins by going over the view of each side in a brief
manner. It states that some analysts dismiss it as a minor nuisance while
others find the danger to be very real and probable. This reading stands mainly
for the belief that nuclear smuggling is a real danger. The analysts that find
this issue to be a problem say that nuclear smuggling presents grave and serious
because even though the percent of these type of smuggling is less than that of
drugs for example, the law-enforcement type officials are also less experienced
at stopping shipments of an item such as uranium than they are in seizing
marijuana or hashish.
These same analysts have also found that even a small leakage rate of any
type of nuclear material can have extremely vast consequences and dangers. They
say that although secrecy rules make precise numbers impossible to get, Thomas B.
Cochran of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C., estimates
that a bomb requires between three and 25 kilograms of enriched uranium or
between one and eight kilograms of plutonium. A Kilogram of plutonium occupies
about 50.4 cubic centimeters, or one seventh the volume of a standard aluminum
soft-drink can.
In addition to this, analysts have found that security is much to lax in
even the supposedly "most protected locations". For example, the Russian stores
in particular suffer from sloppy security, poor inventory management and
inadequate measurements. Then there is the virtually nonexistent security at
nuclear installations that compounds the problem. The main reason for this lack
of security is that pay and conditions have worsened and disaffection has become
widespread. So with an alienated workforce suffering from low and often late
wages, the incentives for nuclear theft have become far greater at the very time
that restrictions and controls have deteriorated.
Against this background, it is hardly surprising that the number of
nuclear-smuggling incidents-both real and fake-has increased during the few
years. German authorities for example, reported 41 in 1991, 158 in 1992,241 in
1993 and 267 in 1994. Although most of these cases did involve material
suitable for bombs, as the number of incidents increases so does the likelihood
that at least a few will include weapons-grade alloys.
In March 1993, according to a report from Istanbul, six kilograms of
enriched uranium entered Turkey through the Aralik border gate in Kars Province.
Although confirmation of neither the incident nor the degree of the uranium\'s
enrichment was forthcoming, It raised fears that Chechen "Mafia" groups had
obtained access to enriched uranium in Kazakhastan.
So what should we do about this? Some suggest that systematic
multinational measures be taken as soon as possible to inhibit theft at the
source, to disrupt trafficking, and to deter buyers. The U.S., Germany, Russia
and other nations with an interest in the nuclear problem should set up a
"flying squad" with an investigative arm, facilities for counterterrorist and
counterextortion actions and a disaster management team. Even though such an
idea may seem extremely far-fetched at the moment because of a continuing
reluctance to recognize the severity of the there, it is minutely the consensus
that it would be a horrible tragedy if governments were to accept the need for a
more substantive program only after a nuclear catastrophe.

Category: Science