Stopping Nuclear Smuggling


Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: Continuous Improvement or Dangerous Decline?
March 2016 | Report
Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
By Matthew Bunn, Martin Malin, William Tobey, and Nickolas Roth

This report provides a global assessment of nuclear security. Significant progress has been made securing vulnerable nuclear weapons-usable material—reducing the number of countries with these materials by more than half, securing scores of sites around the world, and much more. But the work is not done. There are new threats, and global attention to nuclear security may be waning. (click here to view)

Fuel for a nuclear bomb in the hands of an unknown black marketer from Russia, U.S. officials say
November 2015 | Article
Center for Public Integrity
By Douglas Birch and R. Jeffery Smith

This article offers an account of a 2011 HEU seizure in Moldova and the resulting international probe that sparked concerns that thieves stole a bomb’s worth of Russian HEU years ago and have been seeking a buyer ever since.

Advancing Nuclear Security: Evaluating Progress and Setting New Goals
March 2014 | Report
Harvard Kennedy School | Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
By Matthew Bunn, Martin B. Malin, Nickolas Roth, and William H. Tobey

"In the lead-up to the nuclear security summit in The Hague, Advancing Nuclear Security: Evaluating Progress and Setting New Goals outlines what was accomplished in a four-year effort launched in 2009 to secure nuclear material around the globe—and what remains to be done....The authors conclude that “all countries with nuclear weapons, separated plutonium, or highly enriched uranium (HEU) on their soil have more to do to ensure these items are effectively and lastingly secured.”  (click here to view)

CNS Global Incidents and Trafficking Database
March 2014 | Report
James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies | Nuclear Threat Initiative

"Providing free and open access to centralized information on material that has been lost, stolen, or is otherwise out of regulatory control, the new Global Incidents and Trafficking Database prepared by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) and funded by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) offers researchers and policymakers a unique resource to assess the nature and scope of nuclear security risks." (click here to view)


Combating Illicit Trafficking in Nuclear and Other Radioactive Material
2008 | Technical Guidance

"This publication is intended for individuals and organizations that may be called upon to deal with the detection of and response to criminal or unauthorized acts involving nuclear or other radioactive material. It will also be useful for legislators, law enforcement agencies, government officials, technical experts, lawyers, diplomats and users of nuclear technology. In addition, the manual emphasizes the international initiatives for improving the security of nuclear and other radioactive material, and considers a variety of elements that are recognized as being essential for dealing with incidents of criminal or unauthorized acts involving such material." (click here to view)

The Non-State Actor Nuclear Supply Chain
April 2011 | Presentation
By Matthew Bunn and William H. Tobey

William H. Tobey, and Matthew Bunn presented "The Non-State Actor Nuclear Supply Chain" at the Workshop on “Cooperation to Control Non-State Nuclear Proliferation: Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction and UN Resolutions 1540 and 1373” sponsored by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability on April 4 and 5, 2011. (click here to view)

The Armageddon Test
August 2009 | Discussion Paper
Harvard Kennedy School | Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
By Rolf Mowatt-Larssen

"Understanding the anatomy of terrorist nuclear intent is essential in order to successfully confront this threat. Two terrorist groups have learned many practical lessons on the difficulties of acquiring a nuclear bomb. The Japanese cult group Aum Shinrikyo and al Qaeda have examined all three pathways to a bomb over years of persistent efforts managed at the top of their respective organizations. Although the terrorist groups worked independently, they shared striking similarities in their thinking and approaches that provide valuable insight into the intrinsic nature of the nuclear terrorism threat." (click here to view)

100 Grams (and Counting...): Notes from the Nuclear Underworld
June 2008 | Report
Harvard Kennedy School | Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
By Michael Bronner

This report on the 2006 seizure of weapon-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) in Georgia provides insights on both nuclear smugglers and those trying to stop them. It highlights the urgency of the threat of nuclear theft and smuggling, and the dangerous gap that still exists between that threat and the scope and pace of the U.S. and international response. (click here to view)

Combating Nuclear Smuggling - Lessons Learned from Cancelled Radiation Portal Monitor Program Could Help Future Acquisitions
June 2013 | Report
U.S. Government Accountability Office

GAO did a review of the cancellation of the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal Monitor (ASP), a radiation monitor for trucks and cargo containers that failed to pass field tests in 2009 and 2010. The ASP set off too many false-alarms, detecting emissions from benign items such as kitty litter. After the program’s cancellation, DHS officials did not have a mechanism to do a “lessons learned” report, in order to help future projects. GAO recommended that DHS require lessons learned reports, specifically citing the importance of learning where our vulnerabilities and failures are on nuclear security issues. 

Illicit Trafficking of Nuclear and Other Radioactive Material: The Legislative Response
April 2012 | Report
Verification Research, Training and Information Centre

"This report investigates the international legal framework currently in place to address the illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive material - considered by many to represent a threat to international peace and security - and identifies what activities are covered by existing prohibitions." (click here to view)

Nuclear Trafficking: 20 Years in Review 
August 2010
Harvard University | Department of Physics
By Lyudmila Zaitseva

"Increased awareness of the threat from nuclear and radiological terrorism and improved control practices and detection capabilities led to a rise in the number of detected illicit trafficking cases over the last decade. At the same time, the number of significant cases, involving weapons-usable nuclear material, has decreased as compared to 1990s....However, some amount of HEU and plutonium, stolen in early to mid-1990s from Russian nuclear facilities, may still remain undetected and, potentially, be available for sale on the nuclear black market." (click here to view)

Illicit Trafficking in Nuclear and Radioactive Materials in the Caucasus: the Case of Georgia
March 2009 | Presentation
James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
By Elena Sokova

In this presentation, Elena Sokova of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies discusses illicit trafficking in nuclear and radioactive materials in the Caucasus in the state of Georgia. Sokova's presentation also highlights lessons learned and continuing challenges. (click here to view)

Defusing Armageddon: Inside NEST, America's Secret Nuclear Bomb Squad
February 2009 | Book
W.W. Norton & Company
By Jeffrey T. Richelson

"Jeffrey T. Richelson reveals the history of the Nuclear Emergency Support Team, from the events leading to its creation in 1974 to today. Defusing Armageddon provides a behind-the-scenes look at NEST's personnel, operations, and detection and disablement equipment--employed in response to attempts at nuclear extortion, lost and stolen nuclear material, crashed nuclear-powered Soviet satellites, and al Qaeda's quest for nuclear weapons." (click here to view)

Illicit Nuclear Trafficking: Collective Experience and the Way Forward
November 2007 | Conference Proceedings

"This publication presents the proceedings of the first international conference to specifically address the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive material. The principal aim of the conference was to examine the threat and context of such illicit trafficking and assess the results of activities in place to combat such trafficking. Participants also discussed what additional actions may be required and how the obligations and commitments of the binding and non-binding international instruments could be, and are being, implemented by various States." (click here to view)

Organized Crime, Terrorism, and Nuclear Weapons
August 2007 | Journal Article
Strategic Insights 
By Lyudmila Zaitseva

"This chapter examines the interest of organized crime actors, drug trafficking networks and terrorist groups in nuclear weapons proliferation. The author presents the historical background and trends in nuclear trafficking. She explores the involvement of and the connection between such groups in nuclear smuggling based on an open source information database." (click here to view)

Recent Weapons Grade Uranium Smuggling Case: Nuclear Materials are Still on the Loose
January 2007 | Article
James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
By Elena Sokova, William C. Potter, and Cristina Chuen

"On January 25, 2007, a story about the seizure of 100 grams of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in Georgia hit the media. The actual incident took place nearly a year ago. In February 2006, some brief media reports referred to a seizure of 80 grams of enriched uranium in Georgia involving a Russian national....No additional information was made public in the ensuing year....The information about the case released more recently indicates that the material involved is highly enriched uranium." (click here to view)

Nuclear Smuggling Chains: Suppliers, Intermediaries, and End-Users
February 2003 | Journal Article
American Behavioral Scientist
By Kevin Hand and Lyudmila Zaitseva

"This article analyzes the supply and demand sides in nuclear smuggling, as well as intermediaries between them, based on the 700 illicit trafficking incidents collected by the Stanford Database on Nuclear Smuggling, Theft, and Orphan Radiation Sources (DSTO) for the period 1991 to 2002." (click here to view)