In the wake of the Brussels terrorist attack, Belgium security officials are concerned that a nuclear plant may be on the list of targets for the Islamic State. The concerns come as two Belgian nuclear plant workers were confirmed to have moved to Syria to join ISIS. At least one of the two former nuclear plant workers was killed in Syria, while the second worker was held in a Belgian prison for a short period of time in 2014 for terror-related offenses. Additionally, it was revealed that several employees working in the Belgian nuclear industry have had their security clearances revoked over potential Islamic State connections.
The New York Times reports that two Belgian nuclear officials fled the country to Syria to join ISIS. Both officials were described as having “extensive” knowledge of the nuclear plant in Doel, and that they could have potentially provided information to the terrorist group on how to sabotage machinery in the facility to cause a nuclear meltdown, which would release deadly radioactive material into the surrounding area. Other concerns involve the potential use of information provided by the nuclear plant officials to steal material from the facility that could be used to create a dirty bomb. Additionally, an attack on the facility such as bombs planted inside could also cause mass destruction.
“The investigation into this week’s deadly attacks in Brussels has prompted worries that the Islamic State is seeking to attack, infiltrate or sabotage nuclear installations or obtain nuclear or radioactive material.”
In addition to the two confirmed members of the nuclear plant joining ISIS, numerous other individuals have had their security clearances revoked following the Brussels terror attacks. The threat was further confirmed after a security guard for a nuclear power plant was found murdered in his home and his security badge was missing.
— VICE News (@vicenews) March 27, 2016
Though the alarm was raised once again by the Brussels attack and death of the security guard, there has been ongoing concerns about the Islamic State and the nuclear industry in the country for some time.
In fact, last year, video footage was found of a top nuclear plant official at the apartment of a suspected Islamic State militant who was linked to the Paris terrorist attacks. After discovering the footage of the Belgian nuclear official, concerns over ISIS attempting to sabotage a nuclear plant grew. British defense secretary Michael Fallon has confirmed that the threat is real noting that the threat of ISIS sabotaging, attacking or infiltrating a nuclear plant are “new and emerging.”
Security officials say that though the Islamic State does not have the technology or ability to create a nuclear bomb, they could use radioactive material obtained from the nuclear plant to build a dirty bomb. Sébastien Berg, the spokesman for Belgium’s federal agency says that the greater concern is that of an attack on the facility itself. It was noted by Berg that terrorists could activate a bomb inside of the facility or sabotage the facility to cause a meltdown.
“An accident in which someone explodes a bomb inside the plant [is a threat]. The other danger is that they fly something into the plant from outside.”
With the video footage showing that the Islamic State has focus on the nuclear industry in Belgium is concerning and the proof that security officials need to focus efforts on protecting nuclear plants in the area. However, the New York Times points out that Belgium does not have a good track record when it comes to keeping their nuclear facilities secure.
“The Belgian nuclear agency’s computer system was hacked this year and shut down briefly. In 2013, two individuals managed to scale the fence at Belgium’s research reactor in the city of Mol, break into a laboratory and steal equipment.”
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) March 22, 2016
The same facility from which the two nuclear officials worked that joined ISIS was also the location where an employee at the facility walked in and, seemingly with intention, sabotaged the reactor No. 4 back in 2014.
“At the same plant where these jihadists once worked, an individual who has yet to be identified walked into the reactor No. 4 in 2014, turned a valve and drained 65,000 liters of oil used to lubricate the turbines. The ensuing friction nearly overheated the machinery, forcing it to be shut down. The damage was so severe that the reactor was out of commission for five months.”
Meanwhile, an ISIS chief executioner exclaimed on a video that the Brussels attack is “just a taste” of what is to come.
With so many security breaches and connections between the Belgian nuclear power plants and the Islamic State, security officials say that a series of seemingly unconnected security breaches and events now seem to make sense and it is likely that the Islamic State has its eyes on the nuclear facilities.
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