The Black Sea: Center of the nuclear black market

By Maj. Gen. Bruce Lawlor, November 1, 2011

The Black Sea region is the center of the world’s nuclear black market, with Russia being the known or suspected source of most nuclear contraband and Turkey the preferred destination. To date, known attempts at nuclear smuggling have been unsuccessful, because the insiders who stole fissile material were not experienced at finding buyers and moving the material across country borders. Recently, however, organized crime appears to have become involved in some nuclear trafficking. Such involvement threatens to change the nuclear terrorism equation, providing the marketing and transportation expertise previously lacking. The US response to nuclear smuggling is handled by the Defense Department and the Energy Department. These agencies have few capabilities for dealing with organized crime, and the countries of the Black Sea region tend not to share nuclear information with one another. Unless international coordination and law enforcement are improved, criminal organizations will likely be able to supply terrorists sufficient fissile material to build an atomic bomb.


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