Ukraine’s Nuclear Shadow: National Security Implications for NATO and the UK

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Ukraine’s Nuclear Shadow: National Security Implications for NATO and the UK

11th December 2023 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

The armed conflict in Ukraine, from the very outset, has been fought under the long shadow of nuclear weapons. A new report from the Henry Jackson Society by Dr Bahram Ghiassee assesses the full spectrum of nuclear risks on Ukraine’s battlefields – and reveals concerning details on the security of radiological material.

The most widely-discussed nuclear risk is of Russia deploying its tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield. This remains a real and terrifying threat, with potential for catastrophic escalation. However, the risks to the security of Ukraine’s nuclear power stations and storage facilities present a far more widespread and urgent danger.

Unprecedented aerial attacks by Russian forces on nuclear and radiological facilities, and their occupation, have severely undermined safety and security. Damage to the physical integrity of some facilities has significantly increased the risk of nuclear accidents. Elsewhere, highly-sensitive radioactive materials may be at risk of theft.

A major nuclear accident in Ukraine could have significant implications for the country, Europe, and the UK. Equally alarming is the prospect of non-state actors – including proxy groups acting for hostile states, terrorists, and crime syndicates – acquiring even small quantities of radioactive substances. Such material could be used to construct radiological “dirty bombs”, presenting a risk to major cities across Europe, the UK, and the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region.

The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to welcome you to this timely discussion to explore the risks and solutions presented in the paper.



Ian Forber is an experienced former senior civil servant who focused primarily on the design and delivery of defence and security policy. He worked in the Ministry of Defence and Cabinet Office and was the Ministry of Defence’s first Director General Nuclear, transforming the department’s approach to delivering long term nuclear deterrence. He has Master’s degrees in International Studies from King’s College and in Public Policy from the London School of Economics.



Dr Bahram Ghiassee is an Associate Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. He is a nuclear analyst, and a visiting academic in the Physics Dept, at UoSurrey, UK. Bahram specialises in nuclear and radiological security, nuclear and radiological terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation, and environmental radioactivity. He is, inter alia, a member of the International Nuclear Law Association, the International Nuclear Security Forum (INSF), and the UK Nuclear Institute. Bahram holds dual qualifications in International Law (University College London) and Nuclear Science & Tech (Imperial College London).


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Christina McAllister is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Partnerships in Proliferation Prevention program at the Stimson Center. Prior to joining Stimson, Christina served as a senior advisor to U.S. Department of Defense offices responsible for non-proliferation and countering weapons of mass destruction (CWMD). As a Booz Allen Hamilton consultant, she led strategic communications initiatives for the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), U.S. Special Operations Command, and the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Defense Programs. From 2006 to 2014 she led teams supporting the work of CTR’s Biological Threat Reduction Program to strengthen detection and reporting of dangerous infectious disease outbreaks and enhance biosafety and biosecurity practices around the world. She subsequently led an advisory team in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for CWMD Policy.

Christina previously covered political, social, and economic issues in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova as a correspondent for Reuters news agency in Moscow and Kyiv. In Reuters’ Washington, DC, bureau, assignments included reporting from the White House, State Department, Capitol Hill, and the 2004 presidential campaign.

Christina holds an M.A. in International Relations and International Economics from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and received her B.A. in Modern Languages (Russian and French) from the University of Cambridge. She is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP).




The Henry Jackson Society was pleased to host Dr Bahram Ghiassee, Ian Forber and Christina McAllister to discuss Dr. Bahram Ghiassees’ report on Ukraine’s nuclear assets and the security ramifications for NATO and the United Kingdom hosted by Marc Sidwell. Bahram assessed the full spectrum of the implications of nuclear weapons being used in Ukraine and reveals concerning details on the security of radiological materials while transferring to Belarus. He mentioned the reports’ acknowledgement of the aerial attacks on nuclear and radiological research facilities, how nuclear substance trafficking across Europe and the UK, how Russian forces have looted and stolen valuable and dangerous radioactive materials from Ukrainian battlefields, the possibility of a nuclear disaster and how this is worrying for NATO member countries in mainland Europe and the UK as it jeopardises their security.

Ian spoke about military deterrence in Ukraine and the implications it can have on the conflict to prevent state proxies from using nuclear assets for terroristic activities. He emphasized that there are many obstacles that need to be overcome so that deterrent for nuclear arsenal to become functional. Christina added that disinformation is a major factor in the narrative when discussing the Ukraine conflict. She went on the state how Russia is using disinformation to confuse and undermine trust in official sources of information.




11th December 2023
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm


United Kingdom + Google Map


Ian Forber, Dr Bahram Ghiassee, Ms Christina McAllister


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