ISIS: Nuclear fears and actual dangers

The latest news report ratcheting up fears about ISIS using a dirty bomb is that a security guard at a Belgian nuclear research center was murdered this week and his access badge had been stolen.

Prosecutors now see no connection to a planned terror attack and say his badge was not stolen.

The media is being hasty connecting nuclear dots that turn out not to be connected.

The New York Times reports: Experts say the most remote of the potential nuclear-related risks is that Islamic State operatives would be able to obtain highly enriched uranium. Even the danger of a dirty bomb is limited, they said, because much radioactive waste is so toxic it would likely sicken or kill the people trying to steal it.

Cheryl Rofer, a retired nuclear scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and editor of the blog Nuclear Diner, said Belgium’s Tihange nuclear plant has pressurized water reactors, inside a heavy steel vessel, reducing the danger that nuclear fuel could leak or spread. She said that the Brussels bombers’ explosive of choice, TATP, might be able to damage parts of the plant but that the damage would shut down the reactor, limiting the radiation damage.

And if terrorists did manage to shut down the reactor and reach the fuel rods, they would have to remove them with a crane to get the fuel out of them, Ms. Rofer said. And then the fuel would still be “too radioactive to go near — it would kill you quickly.” [Continue reading…]

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