Nuclear Smuggling

Information and statistics about nuclear smuggling and theft of radioactive materials. Data collected from published intelligence reports, security threat alerts and other public information sources.

Between 1995 till 2010, there have been an average of 19 nuclear smuggling incidents involving stolen or lost nuclear and radioactive materials each year.

The figure by the IAEA listed above is significantly lower than the 200 to 250 cases reported by the United States Department of Homeland Security. The difference in figures is due to the fact that the IAEA only reports incidents that its members have confirmed or released publicly, where the DHS includes all known or suspected incidents that were identified by the United States and other governments.

Source:  Peter N. Spotts, “US trains nuclear detectives to trace ‘loose’ nukes,” Christian Science Monitor, March 19, 2010.

The Pakistani Military is estimated to have between 70 to 90 nuclear warheads.

Source:  Associated Press, “Security of Pakistan nuclear weapons questioned,” Google News, October 12, 2009.

According to the IAEA Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB), between 1993 and 2007 there was 1,340 confirmed incidents of nuclear and radioactive material trafficking in the world.

The breakdown of the incidents as reported by the ITDB fact sheet:

Of the 1340 confirmed incidents, 303 incidents involved unauthorized possession and related criminal
activity, 390 incidents involved theft or loss of nuclear or other radioactive materials, and 570 incidents
involved other unauthorized activities. For the remaining 77 incidents, the reported information was not
sufficient to determine the category of incident.



According to published reports, Libya paid at least $100 million in the black market to Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan for nuclear weapons equipment and expertise.


The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) states that since the year 2000 there are about 200 to 250 cases of nuclear and radioactive materials trafficking occurring annually.


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirms 149 incidents of illicit trafficking and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and radioactive materials took place in 2006.


According to Stephen Flynn, author of America the Vulnerable, “Weapons-usable nuclear materials exist in over 130 research laboratories operating in more than forty countries around the world, ranging from Ukraine to Ghana.”

(Additional transnational crime statistics.)