Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Gorbachev Warns of Terrorist Threat to Nuclear Power Plants
The 1986 Chernobyl disaster offers a "warning" of the potential human and environmental cost of a terrorist attack against an atomic energy facility, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev wrote in a commentary published yesterday by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (see GSN, Sept. 18, 2009; Mikhail Gorbachev, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 1).
The nuclear reactor explosion at the former Soviet Union's Chernobyl plant on April 26, 1986, resulted in the deaths of 4,000 people, the United Nations determined in 2005. Independent organizations have suggested the incident might have been responsible for tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of deaths, Agence France-Presse reported. The explosion spread radiation throughout the surrounding region in what is now Ukraine and possibly inflicted hundreds of billions of dollars in economic damage (Agence France-Presse/Straits Times, March 2).
"The true scope of the tragedy still remains beyond comprehension and is a shocking reminder of the reality of the nuclear threat," wrote Gorbachev, who headed the Soviet Union's Communist Party when the incident took place.
"I ... remain concerned over the dangers of terrorist attacks on power reactors and terrorist groups’ acquisition of fissile material," he said. "After the heavy damage wrought by terrorist groups in New York, Moscow, Madrid, Tokyo, Bali, and elsewhere over the past 15 years, we must very carefully consider the vulnerability of reactor fuel, spent fuel pools, dry storage casks, and related fissile materials and facilities to sabotage, attack, and theft.
"While the Chernobyl disaster was accidental, caused by faulty technology and human error, today’s disaster could very well be intentional," he wrote.
Gorbachev added: "We especially must pay attention to keeping weapons and materials of mass destruction -- in this case, nuclear weapons-grade materials such as high-enriched uranium and plutonium -- out of the hands of terrorists and rogue nations. U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic initiative to secure and eliminate all bomb-grade nuclear material in four years is an important step forward in improving global security, but we must not forget that these fissile materials are often used in nuclear power and research reactors (see GSN, Feb. 22; Gorbachev, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists).
May 28, 2013
Joan Rohlfing calls on Congress to pass legislation that would complete the ratification of two critical international treaties designed to protect against nuclear terrorism.
Nov. 9, 2012
This report includes resources from the October 2012 meeting of the Global Dialogue on Nuclear Security Priorities in Dalfsen, The Netherlands.