Nuclear challenges have changed over the past twenty years, but they have not disappeared. Although the Cold War nuclear conflict no longer exists, the threat of nuclear terrorism remains very real. Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Illicit Trafficking Database has documented 615 incidents of theft or loss of nuclear or other radiological materials, sixteen of which involved highly enriched uranium.
According to ASP Consensus member, Graham Allison, “A nuclear weapon is more likely to arrive in a shipping container than on a missile.” Costs and international disputes make it difficult to achieve 100 percent nuclear and radiological scanning of inbound U.S. cargo containers.
Moving forward, there are many areas of shipping container security that can and should be strengthened, including inefficient technology, lack of funding, and policy issues.
This fact sheet describes the challenges we face and some key ways we can mitigate the risk.