The IAEA Office of Nuclear Security has released preliminary information on reports to its Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB) during 2006. The database includes reported incidents of illicit trafficking as well as reports of other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and radioactive materials.
All told, 149 incidents were reported and confirmed that actually occurred in 2006. Another 103 incidents were reported that occurred in previous years.
Of the 149 incidents that actually occurred in 2006, fifteen involved the seizure of nuclear and radioactive materials from individuals who possessed them illegally. Some of these individuals were attempting to sell the material or smuggle it across national borders. Six of these incidents involved nuclear materials. Five involved materials such as natural uranium, depleted uranium, and thorium and one involved high-enriched uranium (HEU). In the latter case, the Republic of Georgia reported that, in February 2006, 79.5 grams of uranium enriched to 89% was seized from a group of criminals in Tbilisi. (Note: This is the same case that has been reported in recent stories by the news media). The other incidents of illegal possession reported to the ITDB involved radioactive sources.
The other 134 incidents reported by States to the IAEA that occurred in 2006 included thefts, losses and recoveries of radioactive materials not under control, such as orphan sources, and unauthorized disposals of materials. A preliminary breakdown of these incidents shows that:
- 85 reported incidents involved theft or loss of nuclear or other radioactive materials, mainly radioactive sources. In about 75% of the cases, the materials lost or stolen had not been recovered at the time of reporting.
- 49 reported incidents involved other unauthorized activities, primarily unauthorized disposal of radioactive sources and radioactively contaminated materials and discovery of uncontrolled, or orphan, radioactive materials.
The ITDB was established by the IAEA in 1995 to facilitate exchange of authoritative information related to trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials among Member States. To date, 95 countries and organizations are members of the ITDB. A more complete report on the ITDB is expected later this year, in advance of the IAEA General Conference of Member States which meets in September.