Illicit Trafficking of Radiological & Nuclear Materials: Modeling and Analysis of Trafficking Trends and Risks*
David L. York, Gary Rochau, Tracia West
Sandia National Laboratories
P.O. Box 5800 MS 0748
Albuquerque, NM 87185
Concerns over the illicit trafficking of radiological and nuclear materials were focused originally on the lack of security and accountability of such material throughout the former Soviet states. This is primarily attributed to the frequency of events that have occurred involving the theft and trafficking of critical material components that could be used to construct a Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD) or even a rudimentary nuclear device. However, with the continued expansion of nuclear technology and the deployment of a global nuclear fuel cycle these materials have become increasingly prevalent, affording a more diverse inventory of dangerous materials and dual-use items. To further complicate the matter, the list of nuclear consumers has grown to include:
An initial look at trafficking trends of this type seems scattered and erratic, localized primarily to a select group of countries (Figure 1). This is not necessarily the case. The success with which other contraband has been smuggled throughout the world suggests that nuclear trafficking may be carried out with relative ease along the same routes by the same criminals or criminal organizations.
Because of the inordinately high threat posed by terrorist or extremist groups acquiring the ingredients for unconventional weapons, it is necessary that illicit trafficking of these materials be better understood as to prepare for the sustained global development of the nuclear fuel cycle. Conversely, modeling and analyses of this activity must not be limited in their scope to loosely organized criminal smuggling, but address the problem as a commercial, industrial project for the covert development of nuclear technologies and unconventional weapon development.
Figure 1: Global Trafficking Incidences (2002)
The presence and further evolution of procurement networks connected to national arms programs have provided a supply and demand for nuclear equipment and materials in support of weapons of mass destruction programs for several nations. This is currently an evolving issue among trafficking trends.
Modeling and Analysis of Illicit Trafficking Trends:
Clearly, the generation of an accurate analysis to model trafficking routes and nuclear trafficking trends requires:
In collecting reports on illicit trafficking of nuclear and radiological material or related equipment, it is expected that some information or authenticity may be lacking. Though, it is important to note that the collection and modeling of multiple incidences to provide an activity analysis will convey an overall supply and demand trend indicative of illicit nuclear activity and intentions. This may also act to fill in the gaps of previous reports.
Illicit Nuclear Material Trafficking Analysis Software:
Software to analyze trafficking routes should incorporate cognitive modeling and advanced information processing using compilation of multi-source intelligence and previously designed probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) techniques. The backdrop of such an analysis is weighted towards previous trafficking activity (Figure 2), providing a complete tracking system for the proliferation of nuclear and radiological materials.
Figure 2: Route Analysis Based on Previous Trafficking Trends
The modeling and analysis of previous activity entailing illicit nuclear material trafficking is of particular importance because:
This analysis will also include an objective determination of proliferation and trafficking trends via current methodologies for predicting the potential for development of weapons of mass destruction. This can be achieved via modeling of trafficking routes and trends, while incorporating the material risks associated with the particular nuclear or radiological materials involved. As a function of the predicted material risk deduced from a trafficking trend analysis, it is then possible to design a risk based probability for the deployment of an unconventional weapon. (Figure 3 is a 3D model of a radiological dispersal device using a specified amount of cesium-137. The detonation site is marked by the red circle, and the color-coded columns indicate levels of radiological dosimetry. The model is also confined to environmental conditions that would affect the spread of radiological material.)
Figure 3: Potential RDD risk analysis.
The development of nuclear energy will amplify the accessibility to nuclear and radiological material. This may further increase the potential for latent proliferation. It is important that enough information and intelligence can be collected under a cooperative framework to efficiently address and combat the spread of illicit trafficking. This intelligence and information must then be analyzed using modeling schemes that accurately depict activity, while filtering out noise data. Only then will we understand the scope and intentions of illicit nuclear and radiological trafficking, and be prepared for future trafficking incidences.
* This work sponsored by Sandia National Laboratories, a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, for the United States Department of Energy under contract DE-AC04-94AL85000.