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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

U.S. Study Finds More Nuclear Trafficking Than IAEA

A U.S. review of nuclear trafficking incidents in 2005 has shown that there were twice as many reports of smuggling and mishandling as reported by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Reuters reported last week (see GSN, Aug. 22, 2006).

The Homeland Security Department found 215 reports of illicit nuclear trafficking and related activity around the world in 2005, up from 100 incidents in 2000, said department spokesman Jarrod Agen. The number of reports was more than double the 103 incidents reported by IAEA officials in August.

The increase since 2000 was mostly due to improved awareness and reporting, and does not necessarily mean that trafficking has increased, Agen said.

“What has doubled is the number of reported events,” he said. “This is due mainly to an increase in awareness, more comprehensive reporting and an increase in the number of detection devices.”

“Only a handful of the known illicit nuclear/radiological trafficking incidents involved weapons-usable nuclear materials,” Agen added. “Of the known smuggling incidents to date, the vast majority were profit-motivated scams involving bogus materials” (Reuters, Dec. 26, 2006).

As part of its efforts to combat nuclear smuggling, the United States announced plans last week to install radiation detectors at multiple border crossings in Slovakia. U.S. experts have been working with the Slovakian customs officials to survey potential sites, according to a release from the National Nuclear Security Administration.

“We are continuing to address terrorist threats around the globe,” said Assistant Deputy Administrator Dave Huizenga in the release. “Through this program in Slovakia, and through other NNSA nonproliferation programs, we are helping to stop terrorists and criminals from smuggling nuclear and radiological material” (National Nuclear Security Administration release, Dec. 29, 2006).
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