Are there any other fissile materials than uranium used as nuclear fuel

Tightening its noose against the movement of nuclear material in the black market, the Indian Government has set up Counter Nuclear Smuggling Team. This is part of the Indian Government’s initiatives to bolster nuclear security and non-proliferation to deter nuclear terrorism.

The Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) and Minister of State Prime Minister’s Office, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space Dr. Jitendra Singh told this to the Parliament on December 21.

“To check the smuggling of radioactive material, the Government of India has formulated scheme which is aimed at detection, interception, interdiction, prevention, preparedness and response to mitigate consequences for unauthorized entry of radioactive material,” he said in a written response to Lok Sabha.

The Counter Nuclear Smuggling Team (CNST) is part of the “institutional mechanism” at the national level and it will be working under the Department of Atomic Energy. The CNST has representation from all concerned ministries, departments, agencies and meets periodically. “A coordinated approach involving various stake holder agencies is made to deal with the threat from acquired/smuggled nuclear or other radioactive materials,” Dr. Singh added.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has marked 56 major cities as “vulnerable” locations and 900 police stations are selected for installation of these equipment. Following this, “The radiation monitoring gadgets are installed at entry points, which would be useful in detection, interception, and interdiction, prevention of smuggling of nuclear and other radioactive material across land crossings, border, airport, seaport and all entry points,” Dr Singh added.

In March 2016, following an input the DAE, the Intelligence Bureau and Rajasthan Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had busted a smuggling racket of radioactive materials. An atomic mineral ore of beryllium – beryl – was exported to China unauthorised. Almost 31 tonnes of beryl was recovered following the raids.

The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has also developed Emergency Response Centres (DAE-ERCs) for technical expertise and advice on using radiation detection, usage of instruments and systems, analysis of results of radiological survey, formulating detection and response to nuclear or radiological including public emergencies. A total of 23 DAE-ERCs are operational at various sites across India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Nuclear Security Summit 2016 had committed to strengthening of “national detection architecture for nuclear and radioactive material” to counter nuclear smuggling. India had also hosted the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) 2017.

The plan includes development and deployment of technology to deter and defend against nuclear terrorism. The plan includes physical and cyber barriers, technological approaches, setting up a facility for medical grade ‘Moly-99’ using low enriched Uranium and using vitrified forms of vulnerable radioisotopes such as Ceasium-137, Prime Minister Modi had revealed. He had also announced its support to International Atomic Energy Association and made contribution of USD 1 million to the nuclear security fund.