Five Minutes Past Midnight: Clear and Present Danger of Nuclear Weapons Grade Fissile Materials [open pdf - 354KB]
While weapons of mass destruction have been recognized as a "major threat to our security," with nuclear weapons being the most potentially devastating, it is less understood that growing stockpiles of nuclear weapons grade fissile materials (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) are also a "clear and present danger" to international security. Much of this material is uncontrolled and unsecured in the former Soviet Union (FSU). The proliferation risks of fissile materials are great and there are no short term solutions. Of immediate concern is the breakdown of societal controls in the FSU and the huge amount of unsecured and uncontrolled fissile materials. There is no national material control and accounting in Russia. No one knows exactly how much fissile materials they have, and at most sites not only do they not know how much they have, they do not know if any is missing. A bankrupt atomic energy industry, unpaid employees and little or no security has created a climate in which more an more fissile materials will likely be sold in black markets or diverted to clandestine nuclear weapons programs or transnational terrorist groups. Growing stockpiles of plutonium are another major proliferation risk. Despite the seemingly hopeless magnitude of the problem, a number of non-proliferation efforts have been taken to strengthen the international non-proliferation regime. The US will have to take the lead--because no one else can--to meet this challenge through the entire range of political and economic tools discussed.
Institute for National Security Studies: http://www.inss.org.il
INSS Occasional Paper 8, Proliferation Series