Tuesday, July 2, 2013

IAEA Ministerial Conference Plays Up Nuclear-Terrorism Threats Citing #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Accident

What a scary idea (sarc). It looks like the participants in the first ministerial conference by IAEA want to make the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident a poster child for some new, worldwide measures against "nuclear terrorists".

All it takes is to cut off the power supply to a nuclear plant, that's for sure. As if they didn't know it before.

All I can think of is bath salts, baby diapers, shredded newspaper, and TEPCO's managers who couldn't disregard laws and regulations meant for peacetime to bring necessary batteries to the plant.

The biggest threat to a nuclear power plant, as far as Japan is concerned, is indeed human, but not "terrorists".

But no matter. Here's from Bloomberg News (7/1/2013; emphasis is mine):

Fukushima Shows Nuclear-Terrorism Risks at UN Meeting

By Jonathan Tirone - Jul 1, 2013 5:09 AM PT

Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, whose 2011 meltdowns dislocated 160,000 people, may provide a new blueprint for terrorists seeking to inflict mass disruption, security analysts said at a United Nations meeting.

The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency convened a weeklong meeting of 1,300 diplomats, scientists and security analysts today in Vienna to examine ways to boost protection against nuclear terrorism. It is the IAEA’s first ministerial conference.

“Fukushima sent a message to terrorists that if you manage to cause a nuclear power plant to melt down, that really causes major panic and disruption in a society,” Matthew Bunn, a Harvard University professor and former White House adviser, said at a briefing. “All you need to do to do that is cut off the power for an extended period of time.”

World leaders have pledged to secure the world’s loose nuclear material by 2014 to reduce the likelihood of an atomic attack by terrorists. While national nuclear facilities endeavor to track the millions of pounds of uranium and plutonium that are unaccounted for, some focus has shifted to the threat posed by power plants.

Fukushima “has provided a number of findings and lessons that are also useful for preparations for an incident caused by human hand, such as a terrorist attack at a nuclear power station,” said Shunichi Suzuki, Japan’s envoy to the meeting.

Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency will present steps it’s taken to boost security against terrorism tomorrow in Vienna. The IAEA conference is taking place behind closed doors.

‘Security Problem’

“Fukushima is a nuclear security problem as much as it was a nuclear safety problem,” Kenneth Luongo, who with the U.S. Department of Energy helped secure atomic material in Russia after the Soviet Union disintegrated, said at a briefing.

The IAEA has projected nuclear power is set to expand worldwide even after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns and radiation leaks at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima plant.

A nuclear-armed terrorist attack on the port in San Jose, California, would kill 60,000 people and cost as much as $1 trillion in damage and cleanup, according to a 2006 Rand study commissioned by the U.S Department of Homeland Security.

Even a low-level radiological or dirty-bomb attack on Washington, while causing a limited number of deaths, would lead to damages of $100 billion, according to Igor Khripunov, the former Soviet arms-control envoy to the U.S, who’s now at the Athens, Georgia-based Center for International Trade and Security.

Decommissioned Material

Because a terrorist needs only about 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of highly-enriched uranium or 8 kilograms of plutonium to improvise a bomb, the margin of error for material accounting is small. There are at least 2 million kilograms of stockpiled weapons-grade nuclear material left over from decommissioned bombs and atomic-fuel plants, according to the most recent estimates by the International Panel on Fissile Materials, a nonprofit Princeton, New Jersey, research institute that tracks nuclear material.

That’s enough to make at least 100,000 new nuclear weapons on top of the 20,000 bombs already in state stockpiles.

“The threat of nuclear terrorism is real and serious, and it will endure for the foreseeable future,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Moniz Ernest said today in prepared remarks.

Except... what "major panic"? The Japanese government was about the only entity that panicked in the Fukushima nuclear accident, but even it managed to pretend everything was OK. And that pretense, now a default position, continues today in Japan.

And... "such as a terrorist attack at a nuclear power station"? All you need is a utility company operating a nuclear power plant.

And... I don't think there is a port in San Jose, California, other than the "air" port.

And if IAEA is that concerned about "nuclear terrorism" throughout the world, why has it been actively promoting nuclear power plants, particularly in developing nations, after March 11, 2011?

On June 27, 2013, right before the current conference, IAEA's Director General Yukiya Amano in the opening remarks of the ministerial conference in St. Petersburg, Russia on nuclear power in the 21st Century painted a bright future for the nuclear industry, according to The Hindu (6/27/2013):

The global nuclear industry has learned its lessons from the Fukushima nuclear plant accident in Japan in 2011 and can look to the future with “confidence and optimism,” said the United Nations nuclear energy chief.

In an upbeat address to the first international conference on nuclear energy after the Fukushima disaster Yukiya Amano, Director General of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency said that “valuable lessons” have been learned from the tragedy and “effective steps have been taken to make nuclear power plants safer everywhere.”

Taken these two ministerial conferences together, IAEA and the world powers want to spread nuclear power plants throughout the world so that they can be targets of terrorists.

Does that make sense? It clearly makes sense for them.

Amano's June 27, 2013 St. Petersburg speech can be viewed at IAEA website, here, and July 1, 2013 Vienna speech here.


Anonymous said...

To my recollection, nuclear safety discussions have at least since the 70s and 80s and at least in Germany included considering a potential terrorist attack. I just love how this is spun right now: There is nuclear safety, i.e., apparently referring to accidents (and, of course, we all know those can't happen), AND now suddenly also nuclear security, which is presented as a new thing. So NPPs have always been perfectly safe (except Fukushima, of course) according to the powers in charge, just not necessarily secure? Seriously? Come on ...

Anonymous said...

Why waste money committing terror acts on nuclear plants when you can just wait for governments to inevitably do it themselves.

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