Nuclear Black Market

A Concerning Trade


The existence of a nuclear black market is not very well known. But, events since the dissolution of the former Soviet Union have pointed to a nuclear black market that does not seem highly organized but is present.

In 1998, the Russian Security Service reported foiling a plan where thieves attempted to steal enough weapons-grade Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) to make a bomb, about 18.5 kilograms (41 pounds).

In February of 2006, an undercover agent and a SWAT team in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, successfully seized a couple of grams of 90% weapons-grade HEU from smugglers. The smugglers were all from an unstable region of South Ossetia in Georgia, a border state with Russia in the north, where counterfeit $100 bills, people, and weapons are freely smuggled along with occasional nuclear materials.

Such destructive power is attractive to those that have a strong motivation of pushing their agenda through any means necessary.

In April 2016, Georgian authorities arrested three Armenian and three Georgian citizens in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, attempting to sell U-238 for $200 million. In less than two weeks, Georgian authorities arrested five Georgian citizens in Kobuleti, a Black Sea port city about 200 miles west of Tbilisi, attempting to sell 1.7 kilograms (3.7 pounds) of enriched Uranium for $3 million.

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, showed the destructive force of nuclear weapons. Two bustling cities were decimated and tens of thousands of people suffered death and life-altering physical and psychological injuries. Such destructive power is attractive to those that have a strong motivation of pushing their agenda by any means necessary. And the existence of a nuclear black market shows a terrifying potential of aiding their motivation.


Learn more about the challenges of nuclear black market on Outrider’s feature: Smugglers, Thieves, and Terrorists