- Armament and disarmament
- Conflict, peace and security
- Peace and development
GEORGE BUNN AND LYUDMILA ZAITSEVA
II. The attacks of 11 September and threats to nuclear facilities
III. Illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive material
IV. International efforts after 11 September to improve security against terrorists
The magnitude of the changes in security for nuclear material and facilities that are needed to protect against terrorist attacks has not yet been widely appreciated. There is evidence that terrorists and thieves have already threatened or attacked nuclear facilities and tried to purchase or steal nuclear and other radioactive material.
The attacks of 11 September suggest that the threat to nuclear facilities is more complex than many states contemplated when they were built. Data published by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) show that there are at least 284 research reactors in 55 countries and 472 power reactors (operating or under construction) in 31 countries. Even in wealthy industrial countries, non-governmental organizations have long complained that civilian nuclear reactors are not adequately protected against truck bombs, much less against large airliners loaded with fuel.
Since 1995 fewer cases of illicit traffic in significant quantities of weapon-usable nuclear material have been recorded. This suggests that the security of such material in Russia and other former Soviet republics has been improved—probably due to the collaborative efforts with the USA and other countries. However, only about one-third of the Russian weapon-usable material outside of nuclear weapons has been secured as a result of the security upgrades accomplished to date.
Recommendations on strengthening security fall into three categories. First, the major existing Russian–US bilateral programmes to improve the security of Russian weapon-usable nuclear material need to be continued at the present level or higher. Second, multilateral efforts such as those involving the IAEA are at least as important if terrorists are to be prevented not only from acquiring weapon-usable material, but also from sabotaging reactors and causing death, illness and panic through the release of radioactivity. Third, the planned IAEA programme for peer review of state regulatory structures for dealing with other radioactive materials in order to prevent them from being either ‘orphaned’ or stolen for ‘dirty bombs’ should be funded by the member states, and a major multilateral effort should be instituted to evaluate international standards for these materials, to consider whether new norms are needed.
Professor George Bunn (United States) is a Consulting Professor at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation. He has worked for the US Atomic Energy Commission, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). At ACDA he was General Counsel and a member of the delegation that negotiated the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty and Ambassador to the Geneva Disarmament Conference. He is the author of Arms Control by Committee: Managing Negotiations with the Russians (Stanford University Press, 1992), and reports and articles on nuclear arms control topics including the physical protection of nuclear material from theft and sabotage. He has also served as professor and dean at the University of Wisconsin Law School.
Lyudmila Zaitseva (Kyrgyzstan) is a visiting researcher at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation. She retains a position on the staff of the National Nuclear Center of Kazakhstan. Her research at Stanford focuses on maintaining physical security for nuclear and other radioactive materials as well as for the facilities in which they are kept. She established the Stanford University Database on Nuclear Smuggling, Theft and Orphan Radiation Sources.