The European Commission has proposed an updating of the EU's "dual-use" regulation. This controls the export by Member States of certain products and technologies sold to legitimate customers, but which could be used for unlawful purposes.
The list, which runs to more than 200 pages, covers a range of nuclear materials, facilities and equipment ranging from reactors to computer software. It includes natural or depleted uranium, plants designed for the fabrication of nuclear reactor fuel elements and test, inspection and production equipment. The revised Brussels list incorporates a number of technical changes made over the past year in international agreements drawn up by the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime, among others. Exporters are required to clear all proposed sales with the Commission.
Meanwhile, in a study on environmental crime, the Milan-based United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, (UNICRI), has claimed that the threat of thefts of nuclear material in eastern Europe is declining. The report identifies 65 incidents of illicit trafficking. Of these known crimes, 29 happened in civil nuclear power plants, five from military depots of radioactive fuel rods and four at nuclear research centres.
UNICRI has concluded that radioactive smuggling takes place by land, (bus, train, cars or lorries), with one exceptional case of material being flown to Germany from the Czech Republic on a scheduled flight.
The problem for would-be nuclear traffickers has been the lack of buyers. A cited Interpol study covering 1992-4 concluded that no willing end-users had been identified; another paper claimed that no black market for nuclear materials existed in Russia and so thefts of radioactive substances had more-or-less ceased.