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Fact Sheet: Countering Nuclear Smuggling

April 01, 2016

Countering nuclear smuggling is a multi-faceted challenge that requires close cooperation among law enforcement, intelligence and technical government agencies. Working together, these agencies need to be able to detect and locate illicit nuclear materials, investigate and disrupt material smuggling incidents and deny smugglers the freedom of movement. Moreover, as this issue is transnational by nature, governments need strong regional partnerships to help put loose nuclear and radioactive material back under regulatory control.

The 2016 Nuclear Security Summit has highlighted this important topic through a series of Gift Baskets that detail commitments made to strengthen necessary capabilities to address the threat of nuclear smuggling. Those Gift Baskets include Counter Nuclear Smuggling (Jordan), Nuclear Detection Architecture (Finland), Forenics in Nuclear Security (Australia), and Maritime Supply Chain Security (United Kingdom). In the last few months, INTERPOL hosted law enforcement officials from more than 110 countries to build awareness and capaicity to combat smuggling of nuclear materials and the European Union hosted 28 countries to share best practices on investigative and technical capabilities to interdict material outside of regulatory control. In sum, these statements and activities demonstrate the resolve of a wide range of nations to prevent nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists, criminals, and other unauthorized actors.

The United States leverages expertise from across the federal government to ensure its readiness to investigate nuclear smugglers, detect and recover nuclear and radiological material out of regulatory control, and arrest and prosecute criminals involved. State, local, and tribal governments, as well as the private sector, are also engaged in this effort. Each possesses unique and complementary personnel, equipment, capabilities, and legal authorities to respond quickly and effectively to nuclear smuggling incidents.

The United States Department of State continues to work with international partners to strengthen their counter nuclear smuggling capabilities, through joint action plans with 14 countries and an expanded slate of workshops and exercises. The Department of Energy supports these engagements by partnering with nearly 50 countries to provide a broad spectrum of capacity-building, including in radiation detection and nuclear forensics equipment and training. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also offers briefings and exercises on integrating law enforcement and investigative techniques with radiation detection technology. The Department of Defense works with partners to strengthen border security and close off transnational smuggling routes through the provision of equipment and training. Finally, the United States works closely with INTERPOL and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to strengthen information-sharing mechanisms for governments to alert the international community to incidents involving nuclear or radioactive materials and the individuals involved.

Barack Obama, Fact Sheet: Countering Nuclear Smuggling Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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