Weekend Roundup: Preventing ‘Madmen’ From Getting Their Hands on Nuclear Material

A weighty question loomed large for world leaders who gathered in Washington this week for the fourth Nuclear Security Summit: could terrorists obtain dangerous nuclear material?

“There is no doubt that if these madmen ever got their hands on a nuclear bomb or nuclear material, they most certainly would use it to kill as many innocent people as possible,” U.S. President Barack Obama said at the summit Friday.

Fears of the so-called Islamic State’s nuclear ambitions have grown since a suspect linked to the November terrorist attacks in Paris was found with a surveillance video of a Belgian nuclear power plant official. Harvard’s Matthew Bunn said the Belgian case highlights further steps that must be taken to thwart nuclear terrorism. “Major nuclear facilities must be protected from sabotage,” he said. “And radiological sources must be protected, tracked throughout their life and, where possible, replaced with less dangerous technologies.”

The Nuclear Threat Initiative, a private advocacy group in Washington that tracks nuclear security, warned in a new report that the ingredients for a radiological “dirty bomb” are located at thousands of sites across the globe — including medical, research and industrial centers — and that “many of them [are] poorly secured and vulnerable to theft.” Cybersabotage is a further danger. Later this year, the U.K. and the U.S. plan to simulate a cyberattack on a nuclear power plant to test private and public preparedness.

Obama launched the first Nuclear Security Summit in 2010 with the goal of achieving a nuclear weapon-free world. Since then, nuclear security has advanced through numerous efforts — not the least of which is the Iran deal. But while numerous countries have given up or stalled their nuclear weapons programs, Pakistan, India, China and North Korea <a target="_blank" —> Read More