Nuclear Black Market Looks for Terrorist Business

Nuclear traffickers solicit terrorist clients - A new report by the AP has revealed that, “at least four attempts in five years in which criminal networks with suspected Russian ties sought to sell radioactive material to extremists through Moldova… One investigation uncovered an attempt to sell bomb-grade uranium to a real buyer from the Middle East, the first known case of its kind.”

--Working with local authorities, the FBI has succeeded in interrupting every attempt thus far, “but their successes were undercut by striking shortcomings: kingpins got away, and those arrested evaded long prison sentences, sometimes quickly returning to nuclear smuggling… Moldovan police and judicial authorities shared investigative case files with the AP in an effort to spotlight how dangerous the black market has become. They say a breakdown in cooperation between Russia and the West means that it is much harder to know whether smugglers are finding ways to move parts of Russia's vast store of radioactive materials.”

--“In wiretaps, videotaped arrests, photographs of bomb-grade material, documents and interviews, AP found that smugglers are explicitly targeting buyers who are enemies of the West. The developments represent the fulfillment of a long-feared scenario in which organized crime gangs are trying to link up with groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaida — both of which have made clear their ambition to use weapons of mass destruction.” Read full story, by Desmond Butler and Vadim Ghirda, here.

See also: - “How the FBI is Trying to Stop International Nuclear Smuggling,” at NBC News.

A small risk but not zero - “It is hard to imagine a more terrifying prospect than an extremist group like ISIS armed with nuclear or radiological weapons. But as the Associated Press revealed this morning, that possibility may be much closer than we would like to think,” writes Joe Cirincione for The Huffington Post. “ISIS has already shown its willingness to use chemical weapons against civilian targets, so there should be no question that… they would do the same with nuclear or radiological weapons.”

--“Ironically, and tragically, the more military success we have against ISIS, the greater the demand may be for theses weapons… the U.S. needs to rethink our overall nuclear strategy. Our current strategy is still based on fighting a nuclear war with Russia. We should refocus it, and stop spending billions on an obsolete U.S. nuclear arsenal and move at least part of those funds to preventing ISIS or any other group from getting their hands on radioactive materials. It's time to stop fighting Soviets and shift our funds to fighting the terrorists that truly threaten us.” Full piece here.

Tweet - @JoeCirincione: What's a #DirtyBomb? Watch me explain it to Jon Stewart all the way back in 2002.

Pakistan denies nuclear limits - “A senior Pakistani official on Wednesday dismissed speculation that Islamabad could agree to put certain limits on its nuclear weapons programme in return for a civil nuclear energy deal with Washington. ‘We will not compromise our nuclear programme… we are seeking civilian nuclear technology but that does not mean we will accept any restrictions on our nuclear weapons programme,’” an official told The Express Tribune Wednesday on the condition of anonymity.

--“In an opinion piece published by The Washington Post, US journalist David Ignatius claimed that Washington is exploring possible new limits and controls on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and delivery systems... ‘As a responsible nuclear state Pakistan remains actively engaged with the international community, including the United States, on nuclear stability and security issues,’ said the foreign office spokesperson.” Full story here.

Tweet - @ArmsControlNow: #Fact Sheet North Korea Arms Control and Proliferation Profile

The MOX money pit- “The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX),... designed to convert weapons grade plutonium into fuel for nuclear reactors, was originally expected to cost a modest $1.6 billion,” writes Lydia Dennett. “Twelve years later, DOE has sunk $4.5 billion into construction, yet the building is only 70 percent complete. The final price tag... is now estimated to be anywhere between $25.1 billion and $47.5 billion. Besides a ballooning cost, MOX has a whole host of problems that should be the final nails in its coffin.”

--“Primary among them, the MOX project lost its only potential customer for mixed oxide fuel in 2008 and hasn’t been able to find a single replacement seven years later… The MOX facility was [also] designed with a glaring security flaw. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires that facilities like MOX be able to verify the location of all special nuclear materials within 72 hours… Yet, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the contractor designed the facility in a way that couldn’t meet those requirements.” Read full story on The (POGO) Blog here.

Quick Hits:

--“What a US-Pakistan nuclear deal could mean for India,” by C. Raja Mohan for The Indian Express.

--“Confidential cables, Australia, and nuclear weapons,” by Ramesh Thakur for Asia & the Pacific Policy Society.

--“U.S. senators introduce new N. Korea sanctions legislation,” by Chang Jae-soon for Yonhap News Agency.


--“Policy & Politics of the Iran Agreement,” featuring Joe Cirincione and Bernadette Meehan. Thursday, October 8th from 4:30 - 6:00 PM at Institute for Study of Diplomacy, McGhee Library, Georgetown University, 37th and O St. NW, Washington, DC. RSVP here.

--“Think Nuclear-Free Symposium! The Nuclear-Free Future Award,” sponsored by Green Cross International and the Heinrich Böll Foundation Washington. Thursday, October 29th from 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM at Goethe-Institut Washington, 812 7th St. NW, Washington, DC. RSVP here.

--“Nuclear Detonation Effects in an Urban Area,” featuring John Mercier. Tuesday, November 10th from 12:00 - 1:30 PM at the Department of Science and Technology in Society at Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech Research Center, 900 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington, VA 22203. RSVP here.


The scientists who pee plutonium - “There is a club among atomic scientists who have worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Known as UPPU, it’s a strange, informal organization that began in 1951 and includes scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project and brought nuclear weapons to the world. It’s a small club, and only 26 people had joined as of the mid-1990s.”

--“Membership isn’t easy to obtain, and there are few benefits. First, an applicant must expose themselves to a high dose of plutonium, then they must volunteer to allow the U.S. government to monitor their health for the rest of their lives. How much plutonium in the body does it take to join the club? Enough so that it comes out in your urine. The members of the UPPU club pee plutonium … and some of them ship it back to the government for study.” Full story here.

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