Despite the potent sleep-inducing effects of the famous substance found in turkey, Global Green USA’s Marina Voronova-Abrams and Jonas Vaicikonis attended a conference held at the State Department offices in Washington, D.C. on Monday, November 29th. The conference, “Nuclear Security: Coordinating a Multi-Dimensional Approach,” was a State Department effort to bring the NGO and government communities together to discuss current nuclear security issues. Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, Coordinator for Threat Response Programs for the State Department, gave opening remarks on current State Department efforts to counter nuclear threats. The first session of the conference focused on the progress achieved in securing vulnerable fissile materials. Speakers from the Department of Energy, Nuclear Threat Initiative, and the Fissile Material Working Group discussed how their organizations contribute to President Obama’s stated goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear material by 2013. All agreed that this worthy goal is now closer than ever before, but that challenges remain in reducing the risk of nuclear material falling into the wrong hands.
The second half of the conference focused on illicit nuclear materials trafficking and what can be done to disrupt it. Presenters from the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security spoke about international and federal efforts to interdict illicit fissile material trafficking.
Dr. Elena Sokova from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies gave a very interesting presentation on the types of people who engage in nuclear trafficking and how the nuclear black market has changed since the 1990’s. She compared what we know about those traffickers and end-users, that were caught in the 1990’s with those being apprehended today. She mentioned that the illicit nuclear trade has become less amateurish and involves more intermediaries (people selling material to people who are looking to sell the material again, in pursuit of profits). It makes it more difficult to detect the end users of the material, and even to track the material itself, if it is involved in more than just a one-time or one-country transaction, as it was in the 1990’s. During the Q&A session, the speakers stressed the difficulties of tracking such cases due to the sensitivity of the issue and political tensions between countries, which could really benefit from cooperation in border security.
This conference was a great opportunity to get back into the swing of things and wake up after Thanksgiving!
--Jonas and Marina