Smuggling of Nuclear Material


Over the past five years the former states of the Soviet Union haven't
been able to prevent the leakage of nuclear material. Nuclear materials and
technologies are more accessible now than at any other time in history, due to
the breakup of the Soviet Union and the worsening of economic conditions. No
longer does the Soviet KGB, the Soviet military and the Soviet border guards
have the control to stop the smuggling of nuclear material's. With the Cold War
being over, there is a huge stockpile of over 100 nuclear sites (See Appendix A).
Russia, alone has an inventory of 1,300 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU),
and 165 tons of weapon usable plutonium. Such material is coming into high
demand on the market. Terrorist, organized crime and countries with nuclear
ambition, are high bid contenders for the material. The United States is also
becoming involved for the safety of preventing a nuclear disaster. The U.S. has
just begun their large task and with Russia's worsening economy, smuggling of
nuclear material will continue.
During the Cold War the security of Soviet nuclear weapons and missile
materials was based on a highly centralized military system and operating within
a strong political authority. The workers back then where well disciplined and
each individual new his/her role. The workers were among the best treated and
loyal to the Russian military. They are now suffering hardships and are forced
to scavenge anything to pay for their food, rent and social services.
A new trend is already occurring with some of the workers . There are
those that will seek employment out of the nuclear field and in the commercial
sector, where salaries are higher. Then the unfortunate who lose their jobs and
find no work. The scarier thought is that the uncontempt people in Russia's
nuclear complex with access to nuclear materials will sell themselves, to make a
quick buck. Most suppliers of nuclear material, were insiders who had worked or
were then working at nuclear research institutes or naval bases. Most
perpetrators had no customers in hand but new that a quick profit existed (See
Appendix B).
The first confirmed case involving the diversion of HEU occurred at the
Luch Scientific Production Association in Podolsk. Between May and September of
1992, Leonid Smirnov, a chemical engineer stole approximately 1.5 Kg of weapon
grade HEU. He recovered the enriched Uranium in the form of a uranium dioxide
powder, and stored it in his apartment balcony. He was apparently motivated by
an article on the fortune in selling HEU. On October 9, 1992 he was apprehended
at a Podolsk railroad. Under Article 223 he was sentenced for three years.
The largest quantity of weapon-usuable nuclear material smuggled outside
Russia was found in Prague, Czech Republic on Dec. 14, 1994. Two canisters of
HEU enriched to 87.79% U-235 was found in the car of Jaroslav Vagner. Vagner
had worked at several power stations at Dukovany and Temelin and he left due to
poor wages. His arrest came, due to an anonymous telephone tip.
The list of potential proliferations exist in the state, separatist and
terrorist groups and organize crime. Many countries are looking for critical
components for their nuclear weapons program. Finding a material would shorten
the time in producing a nuclear weapon. For instance, Iran is actively pursuing
nuclear weapon capability. They're attempting to develop both plutonium and HEC.
In 1992 Iran unsuccessfully approached the Ulba Metallurgical Plant and in 1993
three Iranians belonging to intelligence service were arrested in Turkey while
seeking to acquire smuggled nuclear material. The CIA, John Deutch estimates: ³
Iran is a couple of years away from producing a nuclear weapon.²
Iran's neighbor Iraq continues its nuclear program after being
significantly damaged from Operation Desert Storm and continued U.N sanctions.
The CIA assess that Iraq would take any opportunity to buy nuclear weapons
materials. They have already tried but failed in one incident. In 1994,
Jordanian authorities intercepted a shipment of sophisticated Russian produced
missile guidance instruments, bound to Iraq.
Another country, Libya with nuclear weapons ambitions, currently
operates a Soviet supplied research center near Tripoli. President Qadhafi is
said to be recruiting nuclear scientist to aide in developing nuclear weapons.
Terrorist are also potential buyers for radioactive materials. They
could use it to contaminate water supplies, business centers or government
facilities. Terrorist are categorized into Traditional terrorist that would
remain hesitant to use nuclear weapons in fear of a crackdown of their
supporters then the multinational terrorist which are motivated by revenge,
religious fevor and hatred for the west. On March 20, 1995 the