13 Pages

Recent Trends in Nuclear Smuggling


Nuclear smuggling appears to be a fragmented, decentralized, chaotic and amateurish business that poses no current strategic dangers to the West. The illegal trade in nuclear materials that has developed in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse creates serious problems of interpretation for Western policy makers and analysts. This chapter explains the nuclear smuggling pathways. Reflecting the traffic's supplier in search of a buyer dynamic, the vast majority of illegally acquired material exported from the former Soviet Union (FSU) moves westward across the Baltic states and East-Central Europe. Federal Security Service (FSB) officials offer the pessimistic assessment that Russian authorities are able to intercept only 30 to 40 percent of materials taken from Russia's nuclear facilities. Organized crime groups in Russia have displayed interest in commercial exports of dual-use isotopes-nonfissile materials which are important in the construction of atomic weapons (hafnium, beryllium and zirconium) but that are also used in civilian industrial manufacture.