Comparative Analysis of Approaches to the Protection of Fissile Materials, A

Working Papers

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May 1998

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From the preface:

"Events in recent years have caused heightened concern about the security of weapons-usable nuclear material. The possibility of illicit trafficking in, or seizure of, such material, leading to nuclear terrorism, is a worry for all states and their citizens. And given the relatively small quantities required, material obtained in one part of the world could be made into a weapon in another and threaten lives in a third. It is truly a global problem.

Since the beginning of the nuclear era, the physical protection of fissile material has been a responsibility of the individual states possessing the material. These states have different organizational approaches for providing physical protection; and while cognizant of recommended general standards, they tend to follow their own practices, shaped by custom, costs, and threat perception. Moreover, the existence of military as well as civil programs in some states adds another dimension
to the physical protection issue.

Because physical protection is a sovereign matter and not part of an international regime (except for transit of civil material across borders), there has been less attention in much of the world community to the issues of physical protection than to the other elements of nuclear safeguards and controls. (An important exception to this situation is the effort being made to assist the states of the former Soviet Union in the disposition of their weapons-usable nuclear materials.) The lack of a general dialog about a problem of growing concern motivated us to hold a three-day workshop at Stanford University to develop a better understanding of some of the important underlying questions and issues, and to undertake a comparative examination of states' approaches to physical protection. We were pleased to have knowledgeable participants from a number of the countries and regions where physical protection of fissile materials is, or will become, a day-to-day matter.

The results of the workshop are reported in these Proceedings. It is our hope that this work will stimulate further analysis and discussion, and lead to greater interest in international standards, cooperation, and supporting programs.

James E. Goodby
1996-1997 Payne Distinguished Lecturer
Stanford University

Ronald F. Lehman II
Director of the Center for Global Security Research
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

William C. Potter
Director, Center for Nonproliferation Studies
Monterey Institute of International Studies"

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