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Nuclear Security in Ukraine and the Black Sea Region: New Threats, New Risks, New Consequences

Vitaly Fedchenko, Dr Wilfred Wan , Dr Iryna Maksymenko and Dr Polina Sinovets
Publisher: SIPRI
SIPRI, Stockholm:
March, 2023

Nuclear security threats in the Black Sea region went through momentous changes between the 1990s and 2023. Up to 2014 the region was known as the location for the most high-profile cases of nuclear smuggling. In 2014 Ukraine lost control of parts of its territory and borders, which exacerbated the same nuclear security challenges. Attacks on nuclear installations were still seen as unlikely.

In 2022 the Russian military did attack Ukrainian nuclear facilities. The Ukrainian nuclear security regime began to adapt, shifting focus to protecting nuclear installations in extraordinary circumstances. Black Sea states began to recognize Ukrainian territories affected by armed conflict as a source of nuclear security risks. Large nuclear security events with radiological consequences for the Black Sea region are now seen as viable risks. A companion paper describes how attacks on nuclear installations in Ukraine have changed the international nuclear security framework.


I. Introduction

II. Background on nuclear security in the Black Sea region

III. Nuclear safety and security challenges in Ukraine

IV. Nuclear security in the Black Sea region beyond Ukraine

V. Conclusions


Vitaly Fedchenko is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme.
Dr Wilfred Wan is the Director of SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme.
Dr Iryna Maksymenko is a senior researcher with the Odesa Center for Nonproliferation (ODCNP), Odesa I.I. Mechnikov National University, where she is responsible for Ukrainian and European security issues and the educational dimension of ODCNP’s activity.
Dr Polina Sinovets is founder and head of ODCNP. In this role, she leads the education, training, research and outreach activities of ODCNP. She is the author or co-author of multiple publications on the nuclear weapon policy of the United States and Russia, nuclear deterrence, strategic stability, and European security.