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The Real Threat Of Nuclear Smuggling Essay

, Research Paper

The Real Threat of Nuclear Smuggling

This reading was based on the controversy over the threat that nuclear

smuggling poses. It begins by going over the view of each side in a brief

manner. It states that some analysts dismiss it as a minor nuisance while

others find the danger to be very real and probable. This reading stands mainly

for the belief that nuclear smuggling is a real danger. The analysts that find

this issue to be a problem say that nuclear smuggling presents grave and serious

because even though the percent of these type of smuggling is less than that of

drugs for example, the law-enforcement type officials are also less experienced

at stopping shipments of an item such as uranium than they are in seizing

marijuana or hashish.

These same analysts have also found that even a small leakage rate of any

type of nuclear material can have extremely vast consequences and dangers. They

say that although secrecy rules make precise numbers impossible to get, Thomas B.

Cochran of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C., estimates

that a bomb requires between three and 25 kilograms of enriched uranium or

between one and eight kilograms of plutonium. A Kilogram of plutonium occupies

about 50.4 cubic centimeters, or one seventh the volume of a standard aluminum

soft-drink can.

In addition to this, analysts have found that security is much to lax in

even the supposedly “most protected locations”. For example, the Russian stores

in particular suffer from sloppy security, poor inventory management and

inadequate measurements. Then there is the virtually nonexistent security at

nuclear installations that compounds the problem. The main reason for this lack

of security is that pay and conditions have worsened and disaffection has become

widespread. So with an alienated workforce suffering from low and often late

wages, the incentives for nuclear theft have become far greater at the very time

that restrictions and controls have deteriorated.

Against this background, it is hardly surprising that the number of

nuclear-smuggling incidents-both real and fake-has increased during the few

years. German authorities for example, reported 41 in 1991, 158 in 1992,241 in

1993 and 267 in 1994. Although most of these cases did involve material

suitable for bombs, as the number of incidents increases so does the likelihood

that at least a few will include weapons-grade alloys.

In March 1993, according to a report from Istanbul, six kilograms of

enriched uranium entered Turkey through the Aralik border gate in Kars Province.

Although confirmation of neither the incident nor the degree of the uranium’s

enrichment was forthcoming, It raised fears that Chechen “Mafia” groups had

obtained access to enriched uranium in Kazakhastan.

So what should we do about this? Some suggest that systematic

multinational measures be taken as soon as possible to inhibit theft at the

source, to disrupt trafficking, and to deter buyers. The U.S., Germany, Russia

and other nations with an interest in the nuclear problem should set up a

“flying squad” with an investigative arm, facilities for counterterrorist and

counterextortion actions and a disaster management team. Even though such an

idea may seem extremely far-fetched at the moment because of a continuing

reluctance to recognize the severity of the there, it is minutely the consensus

that it would be a horrible tragedy if governments were to accept the need for a

more substantive program only after a nuclear catastrophe.