Letter David Lowry: You report David Cameron as asserting at the global nuclear security summit in Washington that, along with the US, “Britain is very much giving the lead on nuclear security on nuclear sites, transport and materials”. Unfortunately, the truth is the opposite; Mr Cameron and his ministers are deluding themselves if they believe this. In January the respected Washington DC-based Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) – whose mission to strengthen global security by reducing the risk of use and preventing the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons – published its annual assessment of nuclear security worldwide. Of the 25 countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials, the UK is actually ranked bottom, below the pariah state North Korea – ranked 15th – with Argentina and Australia ranked top (the US and Russia are joint 20th).
Guardian 4th April 2016 read more »
The attacks in Brussels last month were a stark reminder of the terrorists’ resolve, and of our continued vulnerabilities, including in an area of paramount concern: nuclear security. The attackers struck an airport and the subway, but some Belgian investigators believe they seemed to have fallen back on those targets because they felt the authorities closing in on them, and that their original plan may have been to strike a nuclear plant. A few months ago, during a raid in the apartment of a suspect linked to the November attacks in Paris, investigators found surveillance footage of a senior Belgian nuclear official. Belgian police are said to have connected two of the Brussels terrorists to that footage. Discussions about nuclear terrorism also tend to focus on the risk of terrorists stealing weapons-grade material or making a dirty bomb. But they often overlook the danger of terrorists attacking a nuclear plant in order to set off a Chernobyl- or Fukushima-like disaster. That risk is real, however, and has been known for a while. The master planner of the 9/11 attacks had considered crashing a jumbo jet into a nuclear facility near New York City. A Qaeda training manual lists nuclear plants as among the best targets for spreading fear in the United States. Striking a nuclear plant or the cooling ponds in which nuclear waste is stored wouldn’t set off a mushroom cloud or kill hundreds of thousands of people. But it would spew large amounts of radiation, spark a mass panic and render vast swaths of land uninhabitable. And it could cause thousands of early deaths from cancer. More than one in three Americans lives within 50 miles of the 99 nuclear reactors operating in the United States today. There are more than 300 other nuclear reactors producing electricity in 30 other countries.
New York Times 4th April 2016 read more »
Nuclear power sites in Belgium have been targetted by Daesh radicals seeking radioactive materials to use in terrorist attacks, write Robert J Downes & Daniel Salisbury. One top nuclear researcher has come under hostile surveillance, while ‘insider threats’ have led to 11 workers being excluded from nuclear sites. But despite increased security, the threat has not gone away. So far, the summits have seen significant successes. They have led to the removal of highly enriched uranium from 14 jurisdictions and upgrades to security at 32 material storage facilities. Equipment to detect nuclear materials has also been installed at 328 international borders. But no further summits are planned after the 2016 meeting and no mechanism has been identified to replace the summit process. That means the future progress of nuclear security is uncertain. And as can be seen in Belgium, the threat remains as real as ever.
Ecologist 4th April 2016 read more »
The United Nations’ atomic agency announced on Monday that it was sending equipment to Brazil to protect against terrorist attacks employing nuclear material during this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games. The International Atomic Energy agency said it would loan several types of radiation detection equipment – including personal radiation detectors and portable scanners – for the games in August and September. The threat from terrorists using radioactive material was one of the subjects discussed during last week’s nuclear security summit in Washington. Fears have increased following the attacks in Brussels, and claims that the brothers at the heart of the plot had tried to obtain nuclear materials.
Telegraph 5th April 2016 read more »