Officials Question Readiness to Probe Nuclear Strikes

Nuclear technicians handle laboratory equipment in 2013. Dozens of countries last week said it is "essential" for governments to strengthen their joint capacity to trace nuclear materials back to their origins.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Diane Barnes
July 16, 2014, 8:12 a.m.

Dozens of of­fi­cials and ex­perts want to tight­en glob­al co­oper­a­tion on ana­lyz­ing atom­ic ma­ter­i­als, partly to help identi­fy per­pet­rat­ors of pos­sible nuc­le­ar strikes.

Par­ti­cipants in a land­mark in­ter­na­tion­al con­fer­ence said the world’s abil­ity to trace in­crim­in­at­ing nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­als to their ori­gins could im­prove sub­stan­tially if gov­ern­ments work to­geth­er on the mat­ter, the U.N. nuc­le­ar watch­dog said on Tues­day.

They ar­gued such col­lab­or­a­tion would prove “es­sen­tial” for nuc­le­ar forensics cap­ab­il­it­ies to keep up with the grow­ing reach and soph­ist­ic­a­tion of crim­in­al and ter­ror net­works, the In­ter­na­tion­al Atom­ic En­ergy Agency ad­ded in a state­ment.

Still, The Vi­enna-based or­gan­iz­a­tion offered few spe­cif­ics on how meet­ing par­ti­cipants want to boost col­lab­or­a­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to one is­sue ex­pert, coun­tries could be­ne­fit from im­proved co­oper­a­tion on cre­at­ing ref­er­ence lib­rar­ies of nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­als.

Such data­bases would in­clude “in­form­a­tion … and in some cases samples,” Elena Sokova, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Vi­enna Cen­ter for Dis­arm­a­ment and Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, told Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire.

She ad­ded, though, that she had not heard of any spe­cif­ic “pro­pos­als for co­oper­a­tion” in the works. In the past, gov­ern­ments have proven re­luct­ant to of­fer up samples of sens­it­ive atom­ic sub­stances for in­ter­na­tion­al data­bases.

Sokova also sug­ges­ted gov­ern­ments could co­oper­ate on nuc­le­ar-forensics ef­forts by help­ing oth­ers to carry out in­vest­ig­a­tions.

“Such co­oper­a­tion could help coun­tries with lim­ited cap­ab­il­it­ies to call on their neigh­bors or oth­ers with bet­ter de­veloped forensics cap­ab­il­it­ies and ex­pert­ise to help with in­vest­ig­a­tions of smug­gling cases, ter­ror­ist acts, and in case of re­sponse to ra­di­olo­gic­al events,” the ex­pert wrote in an e-mailed re­sponse to ques­tions.

Some coun­tries may re­ceive help to more ef­fect­ively con­duct their own nuc­le­ar-forensics probes, pos­sibly through ex­pert train­ing or sup­plies of tech­nic­al equip­ment, Sokova ad­ded.

What We're Following See More »
Trump: Clinton “Doesn’t Have The Stamina” to be President
6 hours ago

At the end of the debate, moderator Lester Holt asked Donald Trump if he stands by his statement that Hillary Clinton didn't have the look of a president. Trump responded by saying Holt misquoted him, instead saying that Clinton "doesn't have the stamina." Clinton responded by saying that when Trump visits 112 countries as secretary of state, he can talk to her about stamina.

Trump: Clinton Camp Started Birtherism
6 hours ago

Donald Trump, when pressed by Lester Holt on why he finally admitted that President Obama was born in America, repeated his widely debunked claim that it was started by Hillary Clinton.

Conversation Shifts to Race
7 hours ago

Hillary Clinton went point by point on how race can so often determine the treatment that people receive, mentioning recent shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte, calling for restored trust between communities and police, and demanding criminal justice reform. Trump responded by calling for law and order and touting his endorsements from police unions. He then said that “African Americans are living in hell,” saying they are just walking down the street and getting “shot ... being decimated by crime."

During Debate, Trump Site Appears to Be Down
7 hours ago

Just as Hillary Clinton was inviting debate viewers to visit her site for real-time fact checking, there appeared to be a problem with Donald Trump's own campaign website. For about a 15-minute period, a blank page or an error message appeared when we tried to load the Trump site.

Trump Comes Out Swinging
7 hours ago

Donald Trump has come out in the first segment of this debate raring to go. Trump has interrupted nearly every answer being given by Hillary Clinton, talking over her time and again. Clinton is sticking to her guns, smiling while Trump speaks and then calling on people to go to her website and see the fact checking being done.