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Smuggling Nuclear Materials

This story out of Georgia, if authentic, poses some interesting questions:

Georgian customs officers sent a car carrying a mixture of plutonium and beryllium back to Azerbaijan after foiling an attempt to smuggle the materials over the border, Georgian television reported on Tuesday.

Customs officials found the materials, which can be used in nuclear bombs, in what appeared to be a routine customs check as the car was driven over the border from Azerbaijan, the Imedi television station reported.

Both materials are useful if one is assembling a nuclear weapon, and while it would appear that there was insufficient material on hand to go nuclear, the fact that such building blocks are so readily transported together – and treated with such disdain in that part of the world – suggests that fears surrounding proliferation of WMD to rogue regimes or non-state actors is far from unfounded.

Perhaps more interesting is the path the materials seem to have been taking.

If coming from the north and headed west, why transit Azerbaijan? Were Russian-Georgian tensions a factor and a crossing from Azerbaijan considered less likely to attract scrutiny?

If coming from the south and headed west, why not head into the Persian Gulf? Perhaps to avoid the US naval deployment?

1 Comment

Of course this also raises the question of why Vayl Oxford of the Department of Homeland Security recently commented that the ports of entry were not of concern. Unless I've missed a retraction of that earlier stated position.