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