Combatting Illegal Nuclear Trade

Leonard Spector
November 6, 2014

A comprehensive Center for Nonproliferation Studies report calls on the United States and other concerned countries to adopt tighter controls to stem the flow of nuclear-related goods to Iran, North Korea, and other states of proliferation concern. Even modest improvements across the spectrum of today’s nuclear technology controls could greatly strengthen overall international efforts to constrain illicit nuclear procurement networks, the study found.

The now available report, Countering Nuclear Commodity Smuggling: A System of Systems, was prepared by Leonard S. Spector and Egle Murauskaite.  The study was supported by the US Department of Defense.

Leonard Spector and Egle Murauskaite will present the study’s findings and recommendations at a public event at:

10:00am – 11:45am
Friday, November 7, 2014
1400 K Street, NW Suite 1225
Washington DC

The study calls for:

  • Peer reviews of national export controls within the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group and within the European Union
  • Higher penalties and heightened publicity when export control violators are brought to justice
  • Greatly expanded post-export inspections to confirm compliance with license conditions
  • Including in the final P5+1 agreement an Iranian pledge to cease illicit nuclear procurements, with the understanding that a future violation could jeopardize the accord.

The researchers identify and analyze eight specific systems of technology control measures, each distinct and complex in its own right:

  • Measures against originating parties
  • Export licensing and control lists
  • Customs controls and inspections
  • Private sector internal compliance programs
  • Financial measures
  • Enforcement measures
  • International outreach and capacity building
  • Transportation and interdictions

Highlighted in the study is that each system has international, multi-state, and national components, which, in toto, create a system of systems working to halt illicit nuclear commodity transfers.

A key development highlighted in the study is the growing role of private entity compliance programs in banking, manufacturing, and other sectors, where the wholesale screening of transactions against lists of suspect end-users has placed multiple obstacles in the path of nuclear commodity smuggling networks, forcing them to adopt increasingly complex and costly evasive measures.

In several instances, the study urges the export control community to adopt the more robust measures used in the financial sphere to combat the financing of proliferation transactions, including peer reviews, with publication of findings and identification of countries that are underperforming or uncooperative. In addition, the report highlights the overarching roles of diplomacy and intelligence sharing among foreign governments, and notes that better mechanisms are needed for using intelligence information to defend sanctions designations when challenged in court.

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