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Publication: THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS PubDate: 2/22/2004 Head: HIGH ANXIETY Black market nuclear deals are

the stuff of nightmares Byline: ED TIMMS Credit: Staff Writer Section: SUNDAY READER Zone: DALLAS Edition: SECOND Page Number: 1H Word Count: 1788 Dozens of heavily armed men launch a ferocious assault on a remote facility in Pakistan. Security fences are quickly breached with explosives. Guards are gunned down. Within minutes, the terrorists are in possession of nuclear weapons or a sizeable supply of enriched uranium. An unlikely scenario? Perhaps. But some nuclear nonproliferation experts worry that its not impossible. And any risk that nuclear weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists, however slight, is terrible to contemplate when the potential outcome is a radioactive mushroom cloud blossoming over a populated area. After recent admissions that a Pakistani scientist trafficked in nuclear secrets with a trifecta of rogue nations - North Korea, Iran and Libya - concern about nuclear proliferation has intensified. Experts acknowledge that sensitive nuclear material has been stolen and distributed in nation-to-nation exchanges. The International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed nuclear trafficking in more than 40 countries on six continents. Rogue nations have acquired illegally exported equipment that can be used in nuclear weapons programs, as well as other equipment that is not prohibited from export but can be adapted for such use. And a terrorist assault on a nuclear facility is not beyond the realm of possibility. Terrorists repeatedly have demonstrated the ability to carry out sophisticated attacks on well-guarded targets. Al Qaeda terrorists orchestrated nearly simultaneous bombings of

U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. And in October 2002, heavily armed Chechen terrorists seized a Moscow theater, taking hundreds of hostages. If you can have 41 heavily armed terrorists seize a theater in the middle of Moscow with no warning, imagine how many people might show up at a Pakistani nuclear weapons site with no warning, said Matthew Bunn, a nuclear expert at Harvard Universitys John F. Kennedy School of Government. Before settling on the theater as a target, Mr. Bunn said, the terrorists reportedly considered seizing the Kurchatov Institute, a research facility named after the father of Russias atomic bomb program with hundreds of kilograms of enriched uranium. In recent years, Russian officials also have confirmed that terrorists conducted reconnaissance on nuclear warhead storage facilities and transport trains. What makes that particularly terrifying is that a fundamental part of the security for those storage sites and those transport trains is that no one knows where they are and when the trains go, and yet somehow the terrorists managed to find that out, Mr. Bunn said. Security at obsolete or inoperative research reactors around the world may be less restrictive than at military installations. In some cases, stocks of spent fuel are stored in an insecure manner, according to an IAEA document. ... Some of these reactors are still fueled with high enriched uranium, a key ingredient for assembling a nuclear weapon. Terrorists and power-hungry dictators also may resort to less violent ways to obtain sensitive nuclear materials. Mohamed el-Baradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently warned of a sophisticated and complex underground black market network trafficking in sensitive nuclear material. In a speech Feb. 11, President Bush urged nations to track down and destroy trafficking networks, and to prevent regimes from producing nuclear material that can be used to build bombs under the cover of civilian nuclear programs. Intelligence officials have reported that nuclear material has

indeed been diverted from civilian programs. And there is compelling evidence that Pakistans dealing with North Korea involved a state-sanctioned exchange of nuclear technology for ballistic missile technology. China reportedly supplied nuclear technology to Pakistan and to Iran. Even without state sponsorship, private corporations have demonstrated a willingness to profit from the sale of equipment that can be used for nuclear-arms development. Sometimes, firms ignore nonproliferation laws prohibiting the sale and export of equipment that can be used in a nuclear weapons program; rogue nations also have acquired equipment that is not restricted for export but can be modified for that purpose. And a change of government in Pakistan, the only known Islamic country with nuclear weapons, almost certainly would raise anxieties. Pakistans authoritarian government is opposed by Islamic fundamentalists, many sympathetic to Osama bin Ladens al-Qaeda terrorist network. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, an Army general who seized power in 1999, has been the target of repeated assassination attempts. Who really would control, not only their nuclear weapon devices, but the material and the facilities in which the material is located? asked John Parachini, a Rand Corp. policy analyst who specializes in terrorism and weapons proliferation issues. Pakistan has long been suspected of being a major nuclear proliferator. Those suspicions were emphatically confirmed earlier this month when Abdul Qadeer Khan, the acknowledged father of the impoverished South Asian countrys nuclear weapons program, admitted that hed catered to the nuclear aspirations of Libya, North Korea and Iran for personal gain. Other nuclear scientists in Pakistan, as well as scientists elsewhere in the world, may still be willing to share what they know, and what they can steal, motivated by ideology, religion or unadulterated greed. Theres been concern about so-called pious scientists for quite some time, long before it was revealed that a Pakistani scientist involved in their atomic energy agency met with bin Laden, Mr. Parachini said.

In recent decades, international disapproval and even sanctions failed to stop Pakistan from developing and assembling nuclear weapons, or sharing its nuclear knowledge with some of the worlds most erratic and bellicose dictators. Time after time, geopolitical expediency mitigated the rebukes. In the 1980s, Pakistan became a staging area for U.S. support to Islamic fundamentalists opposing Soviet forces in Afghanistan, and more recently an ally in the war against terrorism. Economic sanctions that were imposed after Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in 1998 were lifted after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Pakistan has been a proliferation worry for more than two decades, but always something intercedes on the global stage that causes us to seek a closer relationship, Mr. Parachini said. Theres been ... an enduring concern about their weapons program in general that always gets interrupted by more immediate political or military problems. Building a nuclear weapon is not a simple process. Iraqs attempts fell short, despite a massive investment of capital and resources. Benn Tannenbaum, a senior research analyst with the Federation of American Scientists, suggests that even if a terrorist organization obtains nuclear material, its chances of developing a nuclear weapon is quite slim because of the technology involved. The infrastructure is just too big for a non-state ... to develop, he said. Nuclear weapons rely on unstable radioactive material, such as plutonium or uranium, to generate a tremendous blast of energy. Their construction requires sophisticated technology and know-how. India and Pakistan both devoted considerable resources over many years to develop their modest arsenals. However, constructing a so-called dirty bomb, which contains radioactive material that is not suitable for use in a nuclear bomb, is not so complicated. A dirty bomb would use conventional explosives to scatter the radioactive material. The blast damage is much less, but the psychological impact might be significant. Material that can be used to make dirty bombs resides in many poorly guarded hospitals and civilian research labs in India and Pakistan, Michael Krepon, founding president of the Henry L.

Stimson Center, testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in January. These facilities are very susceptible to insider threats, such as a security guard or a hospital worker who is sympathetic to an extremist group and who aids in the theft of this material. For many years, the former Soviet Union, especially Russia, was seen as the most likely source of illicit nuclear weapons, sensitive nuclear materials and technology. During the Cold War, a massive nuclear weapons program was developed. And after the demise of communism, many Russians involved in that program were out of work or saw their income and perks evaporate. A goal of the United States Cooperative Threat Reduction program, launched in the early 1990s, was to prevent the diversion of weapons-related expertise. Thousands of former Soviet scientists and engineers once involved in nuclear weapons programs were helped to move into more peaceful pursuits. The situation in Russia has stabilized significantly in the sense that in 1998, you had people who literally werent getting paid at all for six months at a time, Mr. Bunn said. You had guards at nuclear facilities leaving their posts to forage for food .... But as the Russian nuclear weapons complex continues to constrict, more people will lose their jobs. And to my mind, one of the most dangerous moments is when you still have access to material, still have access to sensitive knowledge, but you know that your job is coming to an end and you havent got something else lined up yet, Mr. Bunn said. That may be a time when youre particularly motivated to do something that might give you a nest egg for the future. The recent revelations about Mr. Khan and his colleagues in Pakistan, Mr. Bunn added, also may challenge the premise that if nuclear scientists in Russia are provided a living wage, they wont be tempted by offers from developing countries that want nuclear weapons. They didnt want a living wage. They wanted millions of dollars, he said. Other experts are less certain that theres much of a nuclear brain

drain from Russia thats benefited rogue states and terrorist organizations. If you were going to have seen a nuclear weapons scientist go bad, I think it would have happened by now, Dr. Tannenbaum said. Were 10 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union ... If they were going to bow to the almighty dollar and sell their knowledge to someone, that would have already happened. Theres more tangible evidence that nuclear material is stolen and smuggled. Law enforcement officials periodically seize quantities of nuclear material or technology that can be used to develop a nuclear weapon. A 2002 report by the General Accounting Office noted that illicit trafficking or smuggling of nuclear and other radioactive materials occurs worldwide and apparently was on the rise. The list of incidents over nearly a decade was relatively short, though, said Mr. Parachini. Is the probability of diversion of material or weapons zero? No. Is it high? I dont think so, Mr. Parachini said. In many cases, he indicated, material intercepted by law enforcement officials may have been diverted without a clear buyer in mind. Mr. Bunn suggests that gauging the actual scope of nuclear trafficking is difficult. Of what iceberg are we seeing the tip is an obvious question that we just dont know the answer to, he said. The CIA he said, has assessed that there has been undetected theft and smuggling but they just have no way of knowing on what scale. E-mail: