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Islamic State terrorists transporting nuclear weapons through Kazakhstan unlikely: Dr Dronzina 16 сентября 2014, 19:24

Member of the International Association for the Study of Terrorism comments on the statement of Russian military official, who said terrorists could use the terrotories of Central Asian countries to transport weapons of mass destruction.
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Nuclear warhead on a trolley. © RIA Novosti Nuclear warhead on a trolley. © RIA Novosti

Last week the head of the Anti-Terrorism Center of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS ATC), Colonel General of Police Andrey Novikov declared that the territory of Kazakhstan, along with other Central Asian countries, could potentially be used by terrorists to transport nuclear weapons.

"We also take into account another potential threat – this is the possibility that the territories of the CIS states and, in particular, the Central Asian region, will be used for transit of nuclear and other hazardous materials, as well as technologies and equipment related to weapons of mass destruction," he said.

In particular, Novikov spoke about the Islamic State terrorist organization, who claimed they had captured dozens of kilograms of nuclear compounds and assets worth a billion dollars. Novikov suggested the threat was quite real.

This week, an expert in terrorism and studies of conflicts Dr. Tatyana Dronzina said that transportation of nuclear weapons through Kazakhstan by militants of the terrorist organization Islamic State was unlikely. Member of the International Association for the Study of Terrorism, she also believes there are no clear-cut negation of the fact they can actually develop any nuclear weapons.

"Specialists of Manhattan, for example, say it is possible. According to them, if the terrorists manage to find a sufficient amount of plutonium or highly enriched uranium, they will be able to construct a crude nuclear weapon. (...) Others are skeptical of this possibility and estimate it as unlikely due to the complexity of the technological aspects of the production process,” she said.

“In general, I believe that transportation of nuclear weapons by the Islamic State through Kazakhstan is unlikely. But I do not rule out the possibility completely for the near future. (. ..) Transportation of nuclear weapons and transportation of compounds bearing technology for nuclear weapons are two completely different things. I admit that there is a possibility of transportation of materials and technologies related to production of nuclear weapons," Dronzina said.

According to Drozina, international terrorist networks have their cells in Kazakhstan but they are currently inactive. She also explained why Kazakhstan could be of interest to terrorists.

"Kazakhstan has the world's third largest proven reserves of uranium, which is also "cheap". Kazakhstan’s reserves constitute 12 percent of world reserves. Kazakhstan also ranks first in the production of uranium in the world. (...) The terrorists have every reason to consider the country as a potential source of the raw material," the expert said.

Another factor pointed out by Dronzina was the start of production at the joint Russian-Kazakh project Uranium Enrichment Center in 2013. The first commercial shipments have already been made.

The final factor is the large area of Kazakhstan and its long, not always well-protected borders. Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world and the largest landlocked country with a small population of 17 million people.

Due to these, Dr. Dronzina believes that Kazakhstan has to take all the appropriate measures to report, control and physically protect nuclear materials. “Implementation of these measures is a very difficult task,” she said.

There are 1,400 tons of highly enriched uranium in the world, which is enough to produce 25 thousand simple nuclear bombs, the expert said. Much of the uranium is concentrated in the United States and Russia, while most of the plutonium is concentrated in the United Kingdom, Russia, USA, Japan and France. Dr. Dronzina pointed out that only half of the entire amount was intended for civilian purposes.

Habil. Doctor Tatyana Dronzina is a Professor at St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia in Bulgaria, Guest Professor at the Carlos III University of Madrid and Granada University in Spain, and Gumilev Eurasian National University in Astana. As a researcher, she has practical experience and has carried out fieldwork in several European countries, Central Asia and the Caribbean. 

Reporting by Vladimir Prokopenko, writing by Dinara Urazova

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