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Wake up World! Belgium terrorist attack shows vulnerability of nuclear facilities

Every country, no matter how safe it thinks it is, needs to protect nuclear weapons and the materials you could use to make them against the full spectrum of plausible threats,”

“And wherever there are potential nuclear bomb materials, they need to have armed guards.”

A Nuclear Wake-Up Call in Belgium, Huffpost, 25 Mar 16, By R. Jeffrey Smith “…….The risk of radiation bombs raised few concerns before it became clear that al Qaeda was seeking nuclear materials. And over the past 15 years, those worries have taken a back seat to an even larger anxiety: that materials usable in a Hiroshima- or Nagasaki-sized nuclear bomb might fall into the wrong hands.

As a result, the Obama administration has focused its attention until now on locking down or eliminating the big sparkplugs: plutonium and highly enriched uranium.

But the smaller “dirty bombs” and their lighter security have been a real source of worry among specialists, some of whom say that a detonation somewhere in the world is inevitable.

dirty bomb

“I’m surprised it has not happened yet,” said Laura Holgate, the National Security Council’s senior director for weapons of mass destruction terrorism, at a Washington symposium three years ago. The mechanics of such a device are simple and widely known.

An internal Energy Department report in 2013 counted 70,000 medical, industrial and research devices with potentially dangerous radiological materials, and observed that they are “poorly secured at facilities in nearly every country.”……..

“Every country, no matter how safe it thinks it is, needs to protect nuclear weapons and the materials you could use to make them against the full spectrum of plausible threats,” said Matt Bunn, a nuclear security expert and former White House official who is now at Harvard University. “And wherever there are potential nuclear bomb materials, they need to have armed guards.”

Government studies have shown that attackers can reach sensitive areas at many nuclear sites quickly, and that “it’s really hard to design systems” against a concerted assault, Bunn said.

That’s why Britain, Canada, France, Germany and the United States have long posted armed guards at sensitive sites. But many other countries still don’t. The Netherlands, which supplies a large portion of the world’s radioisotopes, is one; Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Slovakia and Spain similarly lack regulations requiring armed guards at their nuclear sites, according to the nonprofit advocacy group Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Many other measures can be taken to limit the risks of radiological materials. These include expert training of security personnel, helping less-developed countries find and use non-threatening industrial or medical alternatives, and creating rigorous systems to track material locations.

A major problem, however, is that the U.S. budget for this work has declined steadily in recent years, largely to make room for increased spending on modernizing nuclear weapons. The administration in February proposed a $7.6 million cut for next year and $270 million less than previously planned over the next four years. A U.S. target for securing radiological materials in 4,400 facilities has slipped by more than a decade, according to the Arms Control Association……..http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-center-for-public-integrity/a-nuclear-wake-up-call-in_b_9532550.html

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March 26, 2016 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, safety, USA

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