Nuclear Issues

147 Items

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer uses a handheld GR135- Radiation Isttope Identifier to check a container that was stopped after passing through a radiation detection device at the port of Newark in February 2006 (AP Photo/Mel Evans).

AP Photo/Mel Evans

Journal Article - Nonproliferation Review

Combating Nuclear Smuggling? Exploring Drivers and Challenges to Detecting Nuclear and Radiological Materials at Maritime Facilities

| June 03, 2019

International concern over nuclear terrorism has grown during the past few decades. This has driven a broad spectrum of efforts to strengthen nuclear security globally, including the widespread adoption of radiation-detection technology for border monitoring. Detection systems are now deployed at strategic locations for the purported purpose of detecting and deterring the smuggling of nuclear and radioactive materials. However, despite considerable investment in this area, few studies have examined how these programs are implemented or the operational challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. This article seeks to address this with a focus on radiation-detection efforts at maritime facilities. Utilizing practitioner interviews and a survey, this article identifies the factors that influence the planning and use of these systems in this fast-moving environment. The results clearly demonstrate that the implementation of these systems varies significantly across different national and organizational contexts, resulting in a fragmented global nuclear-detection architecture, which arguably undermines efforts to detect trafficked nuclear-threat materials. Greater consideration should therefore be given to developing international standards and guidance, designing and adopting tools to support key parts of the alarm assessment process, and broader sharing of good practice.

FBI agents leaving a raid.

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Journal Article - Contemporary Security Policy

Going it Alone: The Causes and Consequences of U.S. Extraterritorial Counterproliferation Enforcement

| Mar. 25, 2019

In 2004, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1540, which acknowledged the non-state acquisition of weapons of mass destruction as a security threat and called on member states to implement “appropriate effective” domestic trade controls. The United States, however, has both promoted the multilateral implementation of strategic trade controls but has also increasingly resorted to extraterritorial enforcement of its counterproliferation rules. How can a multilateral, norms-based international regime like 1540 contend with extraterritorial enforcement based on national interests? We argue that increased U.S. extraterritorial counterproliferation policies are a consequence of the inconsistent implementation of resolution 1540, adaptive and resilient proliferation networks, and a history of expanding legal interpretations of jurisdiction. We find that while U.S. extraterritorial enforcement can effectively disrupt networks hiding in overseas jurisdictions, doing so creates disincentives for states to implement 1540 obligations and undermines broader nonproliferation objectives.

U.S. President Donald Trump Speaks During a Press Conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 28, 2019.

Associated Press

Analysis & Opinions - The Washington Post

Trump’s Comments on Otto Warmbier are a Reminder He Doesn’t Prioritize Human Rights

| Feb. 28, 2019

The Trump administration has never shown much interest in human rights. Last year, it pulled the United States out of the U.N. Human Rights Council. In 2017, within months of President Trump’s inauguration, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said diplomats should not let human rights values become “obstacles” to achieving national goals. Trump has spoken favorably about some of the world’s most vicious dictators.

People at Seoul Train Station watch a a local news program reporting about a North Korean missile launch. Aug. 30, 2017 (Lee Jin-man/Associated Press).

Lee Jin-man/Associated Press

Journal Article - The RUSI Journal

North Korea’s Missile Programme and Supply-Side Controls: Lessons for Countering Illicit Procurement

| Oct. 17, 2018

Despite one of the most extensive sanctions regimes in history, including an embargo on missile technologies, North Korea has taken huge steps forward in its ballistic missile programme. Daniel Salisbury explores the limitations of, and challenges of implementing, supply-side approaches to missile nonproliferation. Considering North Korea’s recent progress and efforts to evade sanctions, the article highlights the continuing need to strengthen efforts to counter illicit trade in missile-related technologies.

Blogtrepreneur/Flickr

Blogtrepreneur/Flickr

Journal Article - Nonproliferation Review

Solving the Jurisdictional Conundrum: How U.S. Enforcement Agencies Target Overseas Illicit Procurement Networks Using Civil Courts

| September 2018

Over the past two decades, the United States has increasingly turned to targeted sanctions and export restrictions, such as those imposed against Iran and North Korea, in order to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction. One vexing problem, however, is how to contend with jurisdictional hurdles when the violations occur overseas, in countries that are unable or unwilling to assist US enforcement efforts. To solve this problem, US prosecutors are turning to strategies with significant extraterritorial implications—that is, exercising legal authority beyond national borders. One such tool is to use civil legal procedures to seize assets linked to sanctions or export-control violations in jurisdictions that lack cooperative arrangements with US enforcement agencies. While this may be an attractive strategy to bolster enforcement efforts against overseas illicit procurement, using such tools is not without consequence. This article explores the political, legal, and technical implications of enforcing extraterritorial controls against overseas non-state actors by exploring the recent uses of civil-asset forfeiture against Iranian and North Korean procurement networks.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Azharsofii/Wikimedia).

Azharsofii/Wikimedia

Journal Article - European Journal of International Security

Exploring the Use of 'Third Countries' in Proliferation Networks: The Case of Malaysia

| Aug. 10, 2018

‘Third countries’ are frequently exploited by those involved in networks to transfer proliferation-sensitive technologies, allowing procurement agents to obscure the end user or vendor located in the proliferating state, and to deceive industry, export licensing officials, and intelligence services. While ‘third countries’ frequently feature in illicit transactions, the academic literature exploring the roles played by entities in these jurisdictions is limited. Building on the sanctions busting literature, this article proposes a loose typology considering the ways in which third countries can be exploited by proliferation networks. The typology is illustrated using three cases involving entities based in Malaysia – A. Q. Khan’s nuclear black market network, and Iran and North Korea’s efforts to procure and market WMD-related and military goods. These cases are used to generate insights into proliferators’ selection of ‘third country’ hubs. The article argues that while exploitation of third countries by proliferation networks is a similar, but distinct phenomenon to trade-based sanctions busting, hubs of both activities share characteristics. Furthermore, the article argues that other factors beyond the lax regulatory environment, such as level of development, and personal connections, are often as important in driving the decisions of proliferation networks. The article concludes with implications for nonproliferation policy.

Journal Article - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

New Ways to Detect Nuclear Misbehavior

| Jan. 08, 2018

If we had the technology to detect nuclear materials remotely it could help deter smuggling and make it easier to monitor international nuclear agreements. Several recent breakthroughs, if followed up with continued research and funding, could deliver on this promise. They include technological advances in x-ray and neutron radiography; a method that measures how plasma breaks down when exposed to a radioactive source; and developments in antineutrino detection. While all require more development and testing, they are important steps as the global need for ways to detect nuclear materials grows.

A U.S. Navy Grumman F-14A-90-GR Tomcat.

U.S. Navy

Journal Article - Strategic Trade Review

Tomcat and Mouse: Iranian Illicit Procurement of U.S. Legacy Military Technologies, 1979–2016

| Autumn 2017

Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has sought to illicitly procure parts for the U.S. origin fighter aircraft sold to the country under the rule of the Shah. The U.S. has taken steps to quash this trade—these efforts have constituted a relatively large proportion of U.S. export control enforcement over the past near-to-four decades.