Saturday, March 26, 2016

Nuclear Threats: Belgium's Nuclear Plants Face Cyber Threat, UN Nuclear Chief: Terrorists Have Ability To Build The Bomb, 'Dirty Bomb' Fears Rise

Belgium's nuclear plants face cyber threat, EU official says

Belgium’s network of nuclear power plants and other major infrastructure face the threat of a cyber-attack over the next five years, the European Union’s counter-terror chief said in an interview published Saturday.

“I would not be surprised if there was an attempt in the next five years to use the Internet to commit an attack,” Gilles de Kerchove told daily La Libre Belgique.

“It would take the form of entering the SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), which is the nerve centre of a nuclear power plant, a dam, air traffic control centre or railroad switching station,” he added.

His concerns come as Belgium is on high alert following Tuesday’s suicide bombings at Brussels airport and aboard a metro train that killed 31 people and injured some 300.
Belgium’s neighbors have raised concerns over the country’s creaking nuclear plants for some time, after a series of problems ranging from leaks to cracks and an unsolved sabotage incident.
According to reports, a security guard at a Belgian nuclear power plant was murdered Thursday and his access badge stolen. Officials were not immediately available to comment.
These reports follow the discovery by investigators last year of surveillance footage of a Belgian nuclear plant official in the flat of a suspect linked to the Brussels and Paris attacks.

A day before world leaders were set to convene for a summit to discuss the security of nuclear materials, the head of the UN atomic watchdog warned that terrorists possess “the means, the knowledge and the information” to produce or acquire a nuclear bomb.

“Terrorism is spreading and the possibility of using nuclear material cannot be excluded,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano told AFP in an interview late Thursday.

“Member states need to have sustained interest in strengthening nuclear security,” he said. “The countries which do not recognize the danger of nuclear terrorism is the biggest problem.”
A grapefruit-sized amount of plutonium can be fashioned into a nuclear weapon, and according to Amano it is “not impossible” that extremists could manage to make a “primitive” device — if they got hold of the material.
But he said that a far likelier risk was a “dirty bomb.”
This is a device using conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material other than uranium or plutonium.
Such material can be found in small quantities in universities, hospitals and other facilities the world over, often with little security.

Belgium is on high alert after a security officer for a nuclear plant was found dead with his work pass stolen.

The concerning development, which occurred on Thursday but was only reported today by Dernière Heure, comes after concerns the Brussels bombers had been plotting to create a radioactive “dirty bomb” that would scatter nuclear material in a crowded public place.
The security officer was reportedly shot dead as he walked his dog in the city of Charleroi. Authorities quickly cancelled his pass.
While the motive for the murder remains unknown, police are looking into the theory he was killed to steal his pass and gain access to a nuclear facility.
Breitbart London reported yesterday that eleven nuclear workers have had their security passes revoked amid fears the Brussels attackers wanted to steal nuclear material to build a dirty bomb.
Seven workers at the Tihange nuclear power station had their passes cancelled, with a further four revoked after being reviewed by a committee composed of intelligence and security agencies.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media is beginning to sound the alarm bells on the threat to Belgium’s nuclear infrastructure. Here, for instance, is The New York Times

The investigation into this week’s deadly attacks in Brussels has prompted worries that the Islamic State is seeking to attack, infiltrate or sabotage nuclear installations or obtain nuclear or radioactive material. This is especially worrying in a country with a history of security lapses at its nuclear facilities, a weak intelligence apparatus and a deeply rooted terrorist network.

On Friday, the authorities stripped security badges from several workers at one of two plants where all nonessential employees had been sent home hours after the attacks at the Brussels airport and one of the city’s busiest subway stations three days earlier. Video footage of a top official at another Belgian nuclear facility was discovered last year in the apartment of a suspected militant linked to the extremists who unleashed the horror in Paris in November.

Asked on Thursday at a London think tank whether there was a danger of the Islamic State’s obtaining a nuclear weapon, the British defense secretary, Michael Fallon, said that “was a new and emerging threat.”

While the prospect that terrorists can obtain enough highly enriched uranium and then turn it into a nuclear fission bomb seems far-fetched to many experts, they say the fabrication of some kind of dirty bomb from radioactive waste or byproducts is more conceivable. There are a variety of other risks involving Belgium’s facilities, including that terrorists somehow shut down the privately operated plants, which provide nearly half of Belgium’s power.

The fears at the nuclear power plants are of “an accident in which someone explodes a bomb inside the plant,” said Sébastien Berg, the spokesman for Belgium’s federal agency for nuclear control. “The other danger is that they fly something into the plant from outside.” That could stop the cooling process of the used fuel, Mr. Berg explained, and in turn shut down the plant.

Whatever the case, it's fairly clear that there are any number of ways for jihadists to exploit Belgium's notoriously lax nuclear security apparatus and although one would think that the more straightforward approach would be to simply bomb the facilities or have an insider sabotage something, the threat of a dirty bomb is quite real. We'll close with a short quote from Laura Holgate, the National Security Council’s senior director for weapons of mass destruction: "I'm surprised it hasn't happened yet."

The Islamic State has agents working in Western airports, metro stations and “very sensitive facilities in the world,” a leading Islamic State-allied militant claimed in an exclusive interview.

Abu al-Ayna al-Ansari, a Salafist movement senior official in the Gaza Strip, made the claim in a pre-recorded, hour-long interview to air in full on Sunday on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio,” the popular weekend talk radio program broadcast on New York’s AM 970 The Answer and NewsTalk 990 AM in Philadelphia.  Klein doubles as Breitbart’ssenior investigative reporter and Jerusalem bureau chief.

Ansari is a well-known Gazan Salafist jihadist allied with Islamic State ideology.  During the interview with Klein, Ansari seemed to be speaking as an actual IS member, repeatedly using the pronoun “we” when referring to IS and even seemingly making declarations on behalf of IS.
IS has been reluctant to officially declare its presence in Gaza for fear of a Hamas clampdown, but the group is known to be active in the coastal enclave and Ansari is a suspected IS leader.  IS-aligned militants have taken responsibility for recent rocket fire from Gaza aimed at Israel.
Ansari claimed IS infiltration of Western transportation systems.

Ansari stated:

The Islamic State is a state. The Islamic State has agents all around the very sensitive facilities in the world, like metro stations, like airports and other places whether in the West or in the Arab world. We have our mujahedeen implanted in those facilities as workers, as employees, even in the security field in the airports.
And they were recruited to work with the Islamic State and we proved that we succeeded to reach a very deep infiltration in these facilities. We showed it in Sinai with the Russian jet. We show it now. And everybody should understand. This is a state. This state will not disappear. It will only become bigger because this is the message. This is the prophecy of Muhammad and this is the promise of Allah.

No evidence has emerged indicating any IS penetration of the work force at Brussels airport or the metro system, the two targets hit in terror strikes on Tuesday, killing at least 34 people and wounding some 270. IS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

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