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Thinking about Nuclear Terrorism ISometime in the 1980s an organization that is not a national government may acquire a few nuclear weapons. If not in the 1980s then in the 1990s. The likelihood will grow as more and more national governments acquire fissionable material from their own weapon programs, their research programs, their reactor-fuel programs, or from the waste products of their electric power reactors. By ”organization” I mean a political movement, a government in exile, a separatist or secessionist party, a military rebellion, adventurers from the underground or the underworld, or even some group of people merely bent on showing that it can be done. My list is not a definition, just a sample of the possibilities. Two decades of concern about the proliferation of weapons have generated a familiar list of national governments that may have motive and opportunity to possess weapons-grade fissionable material, and some ideas about how they might behave if they had it and what they might use it for. But there is also a possibility that somebody other than a government may possess the stuff. Who they might be and how they might acquire it are related questions. While not impossible, it is unlikely that an entity not subject to nationalgovernment regulation could independently obtain and enrich uranium for use in explosives or could produce plutonium as a reactor product and refine it for weapons use. There are undoubtedly corporations technically and financially able to do it, but not many with both the motive and the opportunity to do it without being apprehended by an adversely interested party. Access to weapons or a weapon program, or to an authorized nuclear fuel cycle, or to an official research establishment licensed and authorized by some national government is currently the only way to do it. Identifying the opportunities and the access to those opportunities generates some answers to the question ”Who?” Theft of weapons is an obvious possibility. As far as we know, it hasn’t happened. Despite the thousands in existence, including the thousands on This essay was originally presented at the Conference “War and Politics,” held in November 1979 at the University of California, Los Angeles and sponsored by the Center for International and Strategic Affairs. It will also appear as a chapter in National Security and Znternational Stability, edited by Bernard Brodie, Michael D. Intriligator, and Roman Kolkowitz (forthcoming). Thomas C. Schelling is Professor of Political Economy at the john F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is the author of Strategy of Conflict (Haward University Press, 1960; Oxford University Press, 2963), Arms and Influence (Yale Uniz>ersityPress, 1966), and Micromotives and Macrobehavior (W. W. Norton, 1978). Znternational Security, Spring 1982 (Vol. 6, No. 4) 0162-2889/82/040061-17 $02.5010 01982 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 61 International Security 1 62 foreign soil, and the large numbers of people who participate in the custody, maintenance, and transport of nuclear weapons, and despite earlier reports by the General Accounting Office that proper care in the transport of weapons has sometimes been lacking, I am not aware of any hint that theft has occurred in any country. And if there has been a theft, the thief certainly has not made a public announcement. Nothing so flatly negative can be said about theft of separated plutonium or enriched uranium. An important difference between theft of the material and theft of a weapon is that nobody is likely to remove a weapon or a warhead in small pieces. A weapon, if stolen, is likely to be taken whole. Materials from some sources, on the other hand, would have to be secreted cumulatively over a protracted period. Gift is a possibility. There may be things a non-government organization can accomplish that a national government would prefer not or dare not to try. Surreptitious or anonymous activitiesby agents of a government we can consider part of the national proliferation problem; but weapons entrusted to independent or uncontrolled parties who have at least some autonomy in what to do with them should be counted as part of the non-nation risk. The gift may...

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