Nukes on the loose

Contemporary issues about nuclear non-proliferation are somewhat limited in scope to the average person. At this point, I think that it needs to be recognised that there is a significant difference between disarmament and non-proliferation.  Most people would argue either in favour of nuclear weapons or against. However, the depth to this debate has not largely extended in ordinary conversation and it is important to consider that nuclear devices are weapons, but also used as political aids. ‘Loose nukes’ is a term used to describe poorly guarded weapons and material, particularly in Russia, that may fall into the wrong hands. This article will discuss matters of loose nukes and their effect on non-proliferation.

An ominous thought is the potential for nuclear weapons to arise on the black market. In 2004, there was an exposure of a network which provided nuclear technology to Iran through Abdul Qadeer Khan. This illustrates the accessibility of nuclear technology as it is no longer advanced countries who can obtain weapons but now they can be purchased off the shelf. This in itself is deeply horrifying matter, however more importantly is the idea that it could reoccur and weapons could reach terrorist organisations. George Tenet, the director of the CIA at the time, compared Abdul Khan as “at least as dangerous as Osama Bin Laden.” Therefore, illustrating the threat that people such as Khan possess.  As the technology becomes more dispersed, the building of a nuclear bomb, is no longer restricted the close held secret of the few nuclear powers. A. Q. Khan exemplifies that it is easier to acquire nuclear weapons than previously thought.

The extent of the black market is unknown, however it is somewhat a given that attempts to smuggle nuclear arsenal is probable. Additionally, the need for protective groups such as the CNC, Civil Nuclear Constabulary, would suggest that nuclear material is not safe from the hands of others, and therefore needs a legitimate protective source. The existence of a black market compounds the risk of material reaching terrorist organisations which in turn would jeopardise the world. The sheer need for organisations, the CNC being one of many, demonstrates an ongoing security risk posed by such weapons.

We must consider the current threat that nuclear technology poses and the question of our safety. It is extremely ironic to relate such weapons with our safety, however it is not guaranteed with or without nuclear weapons. We should consider that even if all states were in favour of nuclear non-proliferation, the reality would not and cannot exist. The mere existence of a black market is so significant, it ultimately means that these weapons will continue to circulate and disarmament and non-proliferation is virtually impossible.

Emma Marshall

Bibliography ( Accessed10/11/16) (Accessed 10/11/16) (Accessed 15/11/16)


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