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Illicit Nuclear Procurement Networks and Nuclear Proliferation: Challenges for Intelligence, Detection, and Interdiction

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This paper investigates the nuclear black market of the modern era, focusing on the illicit procurement networks of four different states in their quest to build a nuclear weapon in circumvention of international export control regimes. While today’s illicit procurement networks, extending from states like Iran and North Korea, are not fundamentally that different from the illicit procurement network created by the Soviet Union in the 1940s, today’s increasingly interconnected world offers new avenues and opportunities for complex illicit procurement networks. If the world remains committed to controlling the spread of nuclear weapons as called for under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, then it must keep pace with the efforts of today’s suppliers and consumers as they construct illicit procurement networks. The objective of this paper is to draw attention to four illicit procurement networks from the modern era, comparing factors in these cases as a way to illustrate their similarities and differences that, in turn, can offer some general yet instructive lessons. These lessons provide a guide to the international community, and can help it in taking the necessary steps to detect future illicit networks through the collection of intelligence, thus facilitating national-level and internationally-administered efforts to interdict, and shutdown, the networks.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 February 2009

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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