How difficult would it be for terrorists to get the materials needed to make a nuclear bomb?
Highly enriched uranium and plutonium are hard to make, but may not be so hard to steal. These raw materials of nuclear terrorism are housed in hundreds of facilities in dozens of countries — some with excellent security, and some secured by nothing more than an underpaid guard and a chain link fence. There are no binding global standards setting out how well nuclear weapons and the materials needed to make them should be secured. Theft of the essential ingredients of nuclear weapons is not just a hypothetical worry, it is an ongoing reality. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has documented 15 cases of theft of HEU or plutonium confirmed by the countries concerned (and there are additional well-documented cases that the countries involved have not yet been willing to confirm). In many of these cases, the thieves and smugglers were attempting to sell the material to anyone who would buy it — and terrorist groups have been seeking to buy it.