Cases of illicit transactions in nuclear materials have occurred over the last 20 years virtually throughout the world, to include the United States. Of the 450 reported attempts of illegal trafficking recorded by the Department of Energy through 1994, most proved to be nothing more than profit-motivated scams involving bogus material, perpetrated by opportunists. The unprecedented leakage of nuclear materials from the former Soviet Union (FSU) in 1994 signaled a clear shift in the nature and significance of the nuclear smuggling problem. While recognizing that the reporting was incomplete and of mixed reliability, there were increases observed in the numbers of attempted transactions including the number of participants and in the types and quantities of materials offered for sale. The apparent pause in the leakage of nuclear materials in 1995 is welcome, but does not provide much comfort because conditions in the FSU conducive to nuclear smuggling remain relatively unchanged and substantial leakage (still unrecovered) may have already occurred.
Strategic Forum no.59 (January 1996)