After Brussels, Fear of Nuclear Terrorism

Brussels bombers tied to nuclear spying - “Turkey's government said Thursday that Ibrahim El Bakraoui was apprehended at its border in the summer of 2015, and that they warned Belgian authorities specifically that he was a ‘foreign terrorist fighter.’ It also emerged Thursday that the brothers were part of a plan uncovered earlier this year to try and target a Belgian nuclear facility — while Khalid was the subject of the international arrest warrant. In December, Belgian security services discovered two men had been secretly videotaping one of the country's senior nuclear scientists,” reports CBS News.

--“Reports in European media on Thursday suggested those two men were Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui, but CBS News could not immediately verify that detail. A U.S. official did confirm to CBS News, however, that the Bakaroui brothers were in involved in carrying out the covert surveillance of a Belgian nuclear official, and possibly a nuclear facility, as well. In light of that ISIS surveillance earlier this year, CBS News senior national security analyst Juan Zarate called the evacuation order for Belgium's Tihange nuclear power plant, immediately following the Tuesday bombings, a ‘chilling development.’” Full story here.

See also - “ISIL's next Belgian target could be a nuclear plant: Column,” by Debra Decker for USA Today.

Tweet - @NTI_WMD: Tune in Sunday night's episode of CBS' Madam Secretary featuring @BulletinAtomic's #nuclear Doomsday Clock

Perry: after the Summit - “My fear is that one day a terror group will execute the ultimate terror attack, a nuclear bomb. If a group were to secure several tens of kilograms of fissile material, they could make an improvised nuclear bomb with the explosive power of the attack on Hiroshima, and deliverable in a standard truck. This is my nuclear nightmare,” writes former Secretary of Defense William Perry for the William J Perry Project.

--“[To prevent this nightmare, governments must] strengthen the safeguards that protect fissile material in their country. President Obama started the Nuclear Summits six years ago to encourage all nations to strengthen those safeguards... The Fourth (and probably last) Nuclear Summit is being held next week in Washington… We are urging that this process not end with this summit, but be followed up with the creation of permanent institutions to carry on this vital work.” Full article here.

Video - Representative Bill Foster speaks on the House floor about the need for nuclear security.

The Nuclear Summits’ best moments - A report from the Arms Control Association and Partnership for Global Security outlines what steps countries have taken to strengthen their nuclear security over the course of the Nuclear Security Summits. Michelle Cann, Kelsey Davenport and Jenna Parker, the report’s authors, examined the actions 53 countries have taken in five areas: “1. Nuclear and radiological security, 2. Counter nuclear and radiological smuggling, 3. Education and training, 4. Governance structures and processes and 5. Joint statement participation.”

--“Despite the positive influence the NSS process has had in reducing nuclear security dangers, substantial challenges will continue after the 2016 summit. Like climate change, global nuclear security would benefit from a predictable approach involving a regularized and high-level process with progressive commitment making toward a common goal. Without an agreed upon mechanism for maintaining political attention after 2016, nuclear security will be in danger of backsliding to a largely technical issue for states.” Full report here.

Tweet - @StephenUCS: Today is the 33rd anniversary of Reagan's ill-fated Star Wars speech. Our 3-yr old review of where things stand:

Nuclear threat grades are in - “The [Nuclear Threat Initiative] Radiological Security Progress Report reviews progress that 23 states have made in meeting their commitments [to improve radiological security]… All but one of the 23 countries have met or will meet the commitment to secure their [most dangerous] sources by the end of 2016... Most countries have met or will meet the additional radiological security commitments,” write Andrew J. Bieniawski, Ioanna Iliopulos and Michelle Nalabandian of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

--“The ingredients for a radiological dirty bomb — the very same isotopes that can make life-saving blood transfusions and cancer treatments possible — are located at thousands of sites in more than 100 countries, many of them poorly secured and vulnerable to theft. The vulnerability of these radiological sources, such as cesium-137 and cobalt-60, has caused concern for years, but today the risk is growing,”

The Next nuclear deal - “Fresh off last year’s deal to limit Iran’s nuclear development, the Obama administration is mulling another nuclear deal — this one with Russia. Washington wants to change course on a plan laid with Moscow 16 years ago to dispose of its share of 68 metric tons of plutonium... The transformation of America’s 34 metric tons of plutonium to MOX was supposed to happen at the Savannah River Site... But after 16 years and $4 billion, the plant is only about 70 percent complete,” writes Marcus Weisgerber for Defense One.

--“Even with Washington-Moscow relations at an ebb, [Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose] Gottemoeller said the two superpowers still cooperate on projects to eliminate weapons of mass destruction... ‘I think … we do seem to be able to develop good cooperation in areas that are related to weapons of mass destruction,” she said. “I would think that this [plutonium disposal] matter could be one where we could have some good, solid cooperation, but I don’t want to talk further about diplomatic efforts.’” Full story here. "

Obama’s Japan trip should include Hiroshima - “Barack Obama should visit Hiroshima when Japan hosts the G7 leaders’ summit in May to see for himself the human misery inflicted by nuclear weapons, according to a survivor of the atomic bombing of the city 70 years ago. ‘I hope Obama and other G7 leaders come here and change their minds about possessing nuclear weapons,’ said Keiko Ogura, who was an eight-year-old schoolgirl when the bomb flattened her hometown on the morning of 6 August 1945, killing 140,000 people,” writes Justin McCurry for The Guardian.

--“‘President Obama should come here and see for himself,’ she said. ‘He and other leaders would realise that nuclear weapons are not about making allies and enemies, but about joining hands and fighting this evil together. We don’t want to tell world leaders what to think, or make them apologise. They should just view it as an opportunity to lead the world in the right direction, because only they have the power to do that.’” Full piece here.

North Korea tests engine - “North Korea successfully tested a solid-fuel engine that boosted the power of its ballistic rockets, state media reported on Thursday, as South Korea's president ordered the military to be ready to respond to the North's ‘reckless provocation’. Pyongyang's claim indicates it is continuing to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile… at a rapid pace in defiance of U.N. sanctions, and amid assessment by the South's officials that it could conduct a new nuclear test at any time,” writes Jack Kim for Reuters. Full story here.

UK doesn’t know how much its nukes will cost - “Britain's defense ministry has not yet established the overall cost of replacing and maintaining its aging nuclear weapons system, it told Reuters, prompting opposition charges of mismanagement of a mega-project expected to be given the go-ahead this year. In response to a request by Reuters about an estimate of the total price tag for the new Trident submarine fleet - Britain's sole nuclear weapons system - the ministry said it was still working on "policy options" and gave no overall figure,” writes Elizabeth Piper for Reuters.

--“‘The department does not hold a cost forecast for the whole capability,’ the defense ministry said in response to the Reuters request under the Freedom of Information Act asking for the estimated cost of replacing Trident over 30 years.‘The government needs a safe space away from the public gaze to allow it to consider policy options for delivering the deterrent in the most cost-effective way, unfettered from public comment about the affordability of particular policy options, some of which many not be at a mature stage of development.’ It did not elaborate on the policy options.” Full story here.

Nuclear threat film to premiere - “The world premiere of ‘the bomb,’ a multimedia experience that explores the nuclear threat by combining a 360-degree film screen, a panel discussion featuring Michael Douglas and a live performance by the band The Acid, will highlight the interactive and experiential program at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival… The performance will be preceded by a panel discussion featuring Schlosser, Keshari, the MacArthur Foundation’s Emma Belcher, Ploughshares Fund’s Joe Cirincione, director Robert Kenner and actor and nuclear non-proliferation activist Michael Douglas,” reports Steve Pond for The Wrap.

Quick Hits:

“Key findings in AP nuclear missile corps probe,” by the Associated Press.

--“North Korean rhetoric has reached new heights – and the world is losing patience,” by Aidan Foster-Carter for The Guardian.

-- “The All-Too-Human Reason Nuclear Material Isn’t Secure Enough,” by William Tobey for Defense One.

--“MoD showing contempt for the British public over Trident, says Labour,” by Ewen MacAskill for The Guardian.

--“Yes, There’s a Legal Gap on Nuclear Weapons Use, But it Isn’t That Big,” by Dan Joyner for Arms Control Wonk.

--“Everything you need to know about the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit,” by Leore Ben Chorin and Steven Pifer for Brookings.

--“Nuclear Smuggling: Not Just Fodder for Hollywood,” by Heather Von Behren for DipNote.


-- “Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium 2015,” featuring David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini. March 28 from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m., at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Linder Commons, 6th Floor, 1957 E St. NW, Washington.

-- “From Pyongyang to Tehran: U.S. and Japanese Perspectives on Nuclear Deals,” with seven speakers. March 28 from 2:00 to 5:30 p.m. at the Carnegie Endowment, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington. RSVP online.

--“Predicting the Health Consequences of Nuclear Terrorism Scenarios,” with Timothy Jorgensen, author of Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation. March 28 from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington. RSVP here.

--“Beyond the Nuclear Security Summits: The Role of Centers of Nuclear Security Excellence,” featuring Jongsook Kim, Korea Institute of Nuclear Nonproliferation; Yosuke Naoi, Japan Atomic Energy Agency; and Zhenhua Xu, China State Nuclear Security Technology Center. March 29 from 9:45 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington. RSVP by email. Webcast on the CSIS website.

--“The Coming Plutonium Buildup in East Asia: Why America Should Worry,” featuring Robert Gallucci, former assistant Secretary of State; Robert Einhorn, former assistant Secretary of State; William Tobey, former deputy administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration; and Henry Sokolski, former DoD Deputy for Nonproliferation Policy. Sponsored by Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. March 30 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., at B-339 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington. RSVP online.

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