Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nuclear bomb material found for sale on Georgia black market

Highly enriched uranium that could be used to make a nuclear bomb is on sale on the black market along the fringes of the former Soviet Union, according to evidence emerging from a secret trial in Georgia. Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili, informed other heads of state of the sting operation at a nuclear summit in Washington in April, but no details about the case have been made public until now. The trial has been conducted behind closed doors to protect the operational secrecy of Georgia's counter-proliferation unit, officials said. But investigators have given the Guardian an exclusive first-hand account of the case. It reveals that the critical ingredient for making a nuclear warhead is available on the black market and is reasonably easy to smuggle past a ring of expensive US-funded radiation sensors along the borders of the former Soviet Union. What is not clear is how much nuclear material is in circulation and whether any has already been bought by extremist groups.

The US has made the prevention of nuclear terrorism its national security priority. Barack Obama persuaded 50 world leaders at the April summit to pledge to secure all vulnerable nuclear material within four years. Billions of dollars have been spent upgrading security at nuclear sites around the globe, particularly in Russia, which has an estimated 700 tonnes of HEU in hundreds of facilities. But it is unclear how much has already been stolen. "The question is: of what iceberg are we seeing the tip?" said Matthew Bunn, a Harvard expert and former White House science adviser, who compiles an annual assessment of the nuclear terrorism threat titled Securing the Bomb. It is the third time in seven years HEU has been intercepted in Georgia. There have been 21 seizures or attempted thefts of weapons-grade material, uranium or plutonium, in the region since the Soviet Union collapsed. In every case the material seized had not been missed and mostly the theft was by an insider.



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Who am I?

I am a law enforcement professional with over 35 years experience in both sworn and civilian positions. I have service in 3 different countries in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

My principal areas of expertise are: (1) Intelligence, (2) Training and Development, (3) Knowledge Management, and (4) Administration/Supervision.

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