Information on Nuclear Smuggling Incidents

Since the early 1990s, there have been numerous reports of illicit trafficking in many types of nuclear materials worldwide. According to IAEA, nuclear materials include nuclear source material, such as natural uranium, depleted uranium, thorium, plutonium, and uranium enriched in the isotopes U-233 or U-235. Plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU)—known as weapons usable material-are considered to pose the greatest proliferation risk because they are used to produce nuclear weapons. In 1993, IAEA established a database to record incidents involving illicit trafficking in nuclear materials. Sixty-nine countries, or about one-half of IAEA's member states, currently participate in the database. As of December 31, 2001, IAEA listed 181 confirmed incidents involving the illicit trafficking in nuclear materials, including weapons-usable material. According to IAEA, a confirmed incident is one in which the information has been verified to IAEA through official points of contact from the reporting country. Of the 181 confirmed illicit trafficking incidents reported by IAEA, 17 involved either HEU or plutonium. More than half of the 17 incidents involving weapons-usable material occurred during 1993-95. The remaining cases occurred during 1999-2001.

Nuclear Smuggling Incidents Involving Weapons-Usable Material since 1992

Date Source of material Country where
material seized
Material/quantity How material was found
May 1992 Russia
(Luch Scientific Production Assoc.)
Russia 1.5 kilograms
(90 percent HEU)
Police investigation
May 1993 Russia Lithuania 0.1 kilogram
(50 percent HEU)
Police investigation
July 1993 Russia Russia 1.8 kilograms
(36 percent HEU)
Police investigation
November 1993 Russia Russia 4.5 kilograms
(20 percent HEU)
Police investigation
March 1994 Russia Russia 3.05 kilograms
(90 percent HEU)
Police investigation
May 1994 Unspecified Germany 0.006 kilograms plutonium-239 Police investigation
June 1994 Russia Germany 0.0008 kilograms
(87.8 percent HEU)
Police investigation
July 1994 Russia Germany 0.00024 kilograms plutonium Police investigation
August 1994 Russia Germany 0.4 kilograms of plutonium Police investigation
December 1994 Russia Czech Republic 2.7 kilograms
(87.7 percent HEU)
Police investigation
June 1995 Russia Czech Republic 0.0004 grams
(87.7 percent HEU)
Police investigation
June 1995 Russia Czech Republic 0.017 kilograms
(87.7 percent HEU)
Police investigation
June 1995 Russia Russia 1.7 kilograms
(21 percent HEU)
Police investigation
May 1999 Russia Bulgaria 0.004 kilograms of HEU Interdiction at border by Bulgarian customs.
October 1999 Unspecified Kyrgyzstan 0.0015 kilograms of plutonium Police investigation
April 2000 Unspecified but Russia suspected Georgia 0.9 kilograms of HEU (30 percent) Possible combination of radiation detection equipment at border and police investigation
September 2000 Possibly Russia
and/or Ukraine
Georgia 0.0004 kilograms of plutonium Police investigation
December 2000 Germany Germany Less than 1 milligram of plutonium Radioactive contamination disclosed in a test.
January 2001 Unspecified Greece Approximately 0.003 kilograms of plutonium Police investigation
July 2001 Unspecified France About 0.005 kilograms of HEU
(approximately 80 percent enriched)
Police investigation

Note: Uranium enriched with 20 percent or higher U-235 is considered weapons-usable material. One kilogram equals 2.2 pounds. One thousand grams equal 1 kilogram and 1 gram is equal to about 0.04 ounces, or the weight of a paperclip.

Source: GAO Report, May 2002: NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION: U.S. Efforts to Help Other Countries Combat Nuclear Smuggling Need Strengthened Coordination and Planning

Company Logo About Us | | Support | Privacy | Site Map | Weblog | Support Our Site

© Copyright 1998-2015 AJ Software & Multimedia All Rights Reserved

National Science FoundationNational Science Digital LibraryNuclear Pathways Member SiteThis project is part of the National Science Digital Library and was funded by the Division of Undergraduate Education, National Science Foundation Grant 0434253