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									Forum on "Nuclear traffic: risks, prevention and countermeasures"
12-13 June 1997 Villa Olmo - Como ( Italy

Notes and Final Report

Prof. Maurizio Martellini,
Dept. of Physics, University of Milan
General Secretary of Landau Network-Centro Volta (LNCV)

Prof. Paolo Cotta-Ramusino
Dept. of Physics, University of Milan
General Secretary of the Union of Scientists for Disarmament (USPID)

Two important meetings were held in Como at the "A. Volta" Centre for Scientific Culture on
nuclear traffic, suitable technologies to detect it, countermeasures and, in particular, the military
and civilian nuclear installations in the former Soviet Union.

The first meeting was attended by members of the G7+ 1 work group on illegal nuclear traffic
The second meeting was in fact forum, organised by Landau Network-Centro Volta (LNCV) with
the support of the UNESCO Venice Office and Italy's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and under the
auspices of USPID. This forum was held in he framework of the programme of the UNESCO
International "Science for Peace" School that is being created at Landau Network-Centro Volta
coordination centre.

The first observation arising from the forum was to distinguish between: traffic in harmful
radioactive substances (as for example caesium-137, cobalt-60, strontium-90 and so on).traffic in
nuclear materials (NMs).

The nuclear materials needed to build an atomic bomb are fissile materials, the best known of which
are: uranium-235 (U-235) and plutonium-239 (Pu-239). U-235 can be found in natural uranium in
very small percentages. Plutonium is a by-product of nuclear power stations. To build a fission-
based nuclear bomb highly enriched uranium is needed, or, alternatively, plutonium. All plutonium
isotopes can be used to build a bomb, although plutonium with a high percentage of the 239 isotope
is preferable. Uranium and plutonium are defined as weapon-grade if their content of uranium-235
and plutonium-239 is higher than 93%.

The difficulties linked to the construction of a nuclear bomb are: lack of technical knowledge lack
of equipment lack of fissile material.

Today the third problem is by far the most difficult one for any potential bomb producer. Therefore,
an essential element to prevent nuclear proliferation is to control fissile material and avoid nuclear
Here are some data that have emerged from the Forum, concerning cases of traffic in radioactive
substances and NMs from 1990 to 1997 : 43 in 1993, 45 in 1994, 27 in 1995, 17 in 1996 and 2 in
1997. Of 134 illegal traffic cases, 34% involved radioactive substances and 66% nuclear materials.
Out of the total, only 8 cases involved military NMs, that is material that could be used to build a
nuclear bomb (all of which occurred between 1992 and 1996, after which no more cases have been
October 1992, Pdolsk, Russia, HEU 1.5 kg - 90% enrichment
July 1993, Andreeva Guba, Russia, HEU 1.8 kg - 36% enrichment
March 1994, Saint Petersburg, Russia, HEU 3.5 kg - 90% enrichment
June 1994, Murmansk Region, Russia, HEU 4.5 kg - 20% enrichment
August 1994, Munich - Germany, MOX 560 g with Pu-239, 363 g.
October 1994, Tengen, Germany, Pu-239, 5.6 g.
December 1994, Prague, Czech Republic, HEU 2.7 kg 88% enrichment
1994, Vilnius - Lituania, HEU 2kg in 4 t of beryllium

According to Thomas Cochran, Director of the Nuclear Programme of the Natural Resources
Defence Council in Washington: all cases of military NM traffic are related to materials stolen in
Russia;the stolen military nuclear materials come from research institutes, ships, space centres or
nuclear plants, and not from depots of nuclear weapons. there can have been cases of undetected
thefts, given the lack of effective exchange of information on military depots, control systems and
nuclear stocks.


Can we state that there have been no significant cases or haven't they been detected? Unfortunately
it is impossible to answer this question, because there are many uncertainties, which have been
widely discussed at the Forum. The following analysis is related specifically to the former Soviet

Being a nuclear power, Russia is subject to "Fissile nuclear material accounting" to the IAEA
(International Agency for Atomic Energy) in Vienna only for installations and power plants that
have been placed under the Agency control. Military nuclear materials in Russia are not accessible
for supervision by Russian civilian or specialised authorities, namely the Federal Inspection Board
for Nuclear Security and Radioprotection - GAN, or by any international organisations (IAEA).
This does not mean that the protection of the Russian military is insufficient, it simply means that
much of this information is inaccessible.

 In November 1995 the Russian Federation broke off agreements with the United States on
transparency of military nuclear material depots and accountability programmes.

The ITWG, which can check the origin of seized nuclear materials, is only a investigation body: if
one of its member states (including all G7 + 1 countries) detects any military NM traffic, it can
require the ITWG's intervention to find out where the NM comes from, but it can also decide not to
do so, for domestic security reasons. This is a common feature in all international organisations
(including the IAEA), since publishing data about military NM traffic means revealing them to all
countries belonging to the international committee, which is why many countries may be reluctant
to provide such data.

The market for weapon-grade nuclear materials (WGNM) may include countries aspiring to become
nuclear powers and groups of terrorists. In theory, several countries may have an interest in buying
fissile materials, although this market is not as universally widespread as the drug market. However,
there is a potential market for NMs that should not be underestimated.
Russia' military complex is undergoing a serious economic and organisational crisis. Several cases
of illegal traffic in conventional weapons have occurred, but no one in NMs. However, in the
absence of reliable and detailed information on WGNM stocks, the possibility of WGNM traffic in
the future cannot be ruled out.

Since the civilian nuclear complex in the former Soviet Union is also experiencing a severe
economic crisis, traffic in radioactive wastes or substances for industrial or medical research, or
even in fresh nuclear fuel (such as low-enrichment uranium, LEU, which contains the U-235
isotope at 3-6% enrichment) may become profitable, despite their low commercial value.
Radioactive material traffic is generally carried out by people with little qualification and
experience, who are not always able to take the necessary precautions. They do not have a buyer
and can more easily be detected. In 1996 for example, thousands of cases of illegal or irregular
exportation of radioactive substances have been found through Polish borders alone(in fact, 18.995
To understand the increase in these occurrences, consider that in 1992 only 184 cases were found in

Many of the obstacles mentioned above in terms of control by various international and national
civilian organisations cannot be overcome in a short time. However, some progress has been made
and a few projects have been defined at the Forum in Como. The first thing to do, in the opinion of
the Forum attendants and ITWG members, would be to work out a standardised test for the
procedure and methodology of analysis of NM samples sent by the European Transuranium
Institute in Karlshrue to laboratories in the various ITWG countries.Moreover, the Forum has
stressed the need to set up a civilian world data bank (integrating the existing IAEA one) to collect
information on the type, features and isotopic composition of stolen materials. The marking of
nuclear materials can allow their tracking. For example, if a nuclear material contains stable lead
isotopes, its area of origin can be identified by analysing geological features. As regards plutonium,
which is not a natural element and can only be produced by nuclear reactors, its degree of pureness
can be examined to establish which reactor was used to produce it, since the characteristics of
reactors operating in the world are known. But, of course, to be tracked, NMs have to be detected
first. To do so, stationary and field- detectors have been developed , which have been described at
the Forum in Como, allowing the active or passive identification of gamma radiation or neutrons
flux released by NM samples. These detectors must be more sensible and analytical (that is, they
must identify the NM isotopic composition and rate of enrichment) than ordinary ionising radiation
detectors used for protection purposes.
However, to avoid NM traffic, and military NM traffic in particular, the degree of safety of Russian
warehouses for WGNM and fresh fuel (often 90% enrichment HEU) should be improved. Lab-to-
lab programmes between the Russian Federation and the United States can play a very important
role in achieving this goal. So far they have allowed the improvement of safety standards in civilian
nuclear research centres, such as the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow, in former atomic centres and
in laboratories for the assembly of nuclear weapons such as at Chelabynks-70, Chelabynks-65
(Mayak), Krasnoyarsk-26 and Arzamas-16.To this end, distance monitoring systems adopted by the
Kurchatov Institute in Russia and the Sandia National Laboratory in the United States are an
especially useful tool to control non military NM stores in real time.It is advisable that such security
systems be adopted also for military depots of WGNM, but intergovernmental agreements in this
field stopped as far back as 1995.In conclusion, the suggestion emerging from the final debate at the
Como meeting was that the best strategy to prevent nuclear traffic would be to take the following
measures as soon as possible:to finalise the construction of the Mayak fissile NM storehouse
(although it will cover only 40% of total needs) and place it under international surveillance; to
exchange more information on the real state of military WGNM depots; in accordance with the
principle of non-proliferation, to stock all excessive fissile NMs, that is materials originating from
nuclear warheads dismantled in compliance with the Start 1 Treaty (about 2,000 warheads a year);
to carry out the reconversion of the former Soviet Union's nuclear complex for civilian purposes
and to retrain scientists, researchers and technicians (some 5,000 military nuclear technology
experts and some 2,000 bomb developers) so that their talents might be used to the benefit of the
civilian economy.
The ITWG met in Como for the third time after its meeting in January 1996 at the European
Transuranium Institute in Karlshrue, Germany, and in December of the same year in Obninsk, near
Moscow. The LNCV is an international organisation established at the A. Volta Centre for
Scientific Culture thanks to the support of the Industrialists' Association of Como and the Italian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the task of developing scientific and technological cooperation
between Eastern European countries and EEC countries. It is also a meeting point for scientists
from all over the world for the study of global issues emerging after the end of the Cold War, such
as nuclear disarmament, international security and environmental degradation. Before 1990, in the
time of the Soviet Union, military stocks inventories were kept through special KGB forms,
specifying the quantities and type of materials produced. There was no form of computerised data
storage and many of these documents may have been lost during the KGB restructuring after the fall
of the Soviet Union. Therefore, the inventory of NM, updated after lab-to-lab agreements, may be
incomplete as far as the years before the Soviet Union collapse are concerned.

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