U.S. Standards for Protecting Weapons-Usable Fissile Material Compared to International Standards

Policy Briefs

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The Nonproliferation Review, page(s): 137-143

Fall 1998

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In the 1990s, global concern over illicit trafficking in nuclear material to terrorists and nation-states has intensified. Two major changes are responsible: the evident new intent of terrorists to wound or kill thousands of civilians and the availability of inadequately protected "loose" nuclear materials in Russia and the newly independent former Soviet republics. These changes have made more likely attempts to acquire weapons-usable nuclear materials for terrorist use or for sale to state sponsors of terrorism. As a result, many efforts are being made to strengthen national and international standards for protection of nuclear material from theft and sabotage. One problem with current efforts is that national stnadards now vary widely. Although the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) mandates that non-nuclear weapon parties accept the safeguards requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for their nuclear activities, the relevant international standards for physical protection are mostly advisory.

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