JRC helps combat illicit trafficking in nuclear materials

May 3, 2002

Brussels, 02 May 2002

The European Commission's Joint Research Centre has a key role to play in combating the illicit trafficking of nuclear materials, according to Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin.

Mr Busquin said that the JRC's work in the area of nuclear forensic science 'builds on a long-standing commitment of the European Commission to put its scientific and technical capabilities at the service of European citizen security and, in particular, in preventing and countering terrorist threats.'

The break-up of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries in the early 1990s gave rise to new dangers including the illegal smuggling of nuclear and radioactive materials and, more recently, the acquisition and use of such material by terrorists.

Mr Busquin pointed to two cases which highlight the seriousness of the threat - the seizure in 1994 of a suitcase which arrived at Munich Airport containing 360 grams of radioactive material and the discovery in the same year of weapons-grade plutonium in a garage in southern Germany. Both finds were sent to the JRC's Institute for transuranium elements (ITU) in Karlsruhe, Germany, for electron microscopy analysis to help identify the processes used in their production and trace their origin.

The ITU, recognised as a centre of excellence by Europol, works closely with the German Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) central police agency and the Federal environment ministry (BMU), and has been designated by the BMU for the investigation of seized nuclear materials. JRC staff also serve on the International technical working group on nuclear smuggling.

The JRC's aims in the fight against illicit trafficking include the development of investigative techniques for identifying and assessing seized materials, fostering close contacts with law enforcement agencies such as Europol and national police forces, helping applicant EU countries to tackle illicit trafficking and the maintenance of a database on commercial nuclear materials.

The JRC has a team on constant standby to provide an immediate response to any seizure of illicit nuclear material, to ensure that an analysis can be delivered to the appropriate authority within 24 hours of its arrival at the institute.

For further information on JRC activities on nuclear forensic science, please consult the ITU web address at: http://itu.jrc.cec.eu.int

For further information on the JRC, please consult the following web address: http://www.jrc.cec.eu.int

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.