Posted inEastern Europe & RussiaRussia

THE CHANGING NUCLEAR THREAT: Russia’s ‘Nuclear Flea Market’ Temp

THE SMUGGLING OF NUCLEAR material from former Socialist countries to the West has increased dramatically since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, causing German experts to cite the emergence of a “nuclear flea market” in Russia.1 Yet talk of a large black market for nuclear material may be no more than hyperbole – some sources believe the main “buyers” are undercover Western secret-service agents. Despite a possibly nonexistent market, the number of documented cases of nuclear material smuggled from the former Soviet Union has risen from zero at the end of the 1980s to 124 in 1994.2 The main reasons for the increase are lax security measures at Russia’s nuclear sites and the myth that nuclear material can be sold in the West for large sums of money. As the number of such cases rises, so do risks to public safety, especially when the material is smuggled on commercial airliners or stored in residential areas.