Nonproliferation
Project Note

Nuclear Security News and Member Updates Roundup, August 2021

In August, IAEA issued new guidance on emergency preparedness and response, and a top Westinghouse nuclear executive was charged with conspiracy.

Dear INSF Members,

This past August marked the 76th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These tragedies are reminders of the danger nuclear weapons and weapons-useable materials pose in the hands of those willing to use them.  The blast, fire, initial radiation, and long-term radioactive fallout of a terrorist nuclear attack could leave a major city in ruins, killing tens or hundreds of thousands of people and wounding hundreds of thousands more. The economic, political, and social aftershocks would ripple throughout the world. It’s easier to remind people of the risk on days like these. The challenge INSF members have is, on days when the public is not paying attention, to convince policymakers that there is a threat and urgent action is needed to reduce it before another such catastrophe occurs.

Best,

Nickolas Roth

International Nuclear Security Forum

Join the conversation on Twitter: @INS_Forum

Updates

On August 3, the International Nuclear Security Forum and the Center for Energy and Security Studies held a workshop titled, Placing Nuclear Security in a Broader Nuclear Policy Context. The discussion helped foster a better understanding of how nuclear security relates to nuclear energy access, state-level proliferation, disarmament, and arms control, and how different stakeholders view these policy and issue area linkages. We will be sending around a summary of the event in the next few weeks.

Nuclear Security News

International Architecture

  • New IAEA Guidance in Emergency Preparedness and Response: “A new IAEA publication, ‘Considerations in the Development of a Protection Strategy for a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency’ provides the concepts and practical considerations needed to build [a] protection strategy [in a nuclear or radiological emergency].” “Five main topics are covered in the publication: the concept of a protection strategy for a nuclear or radiological emergency, the basis and process for the development of a protection strategy, processes for justifying and optimizing protection and safety and consultation with interested parties.”
  • IAEA Donates Specialized Vehicle to Moldova to Strengthen Transport Security: “In supporting the efforts of Moldova to strengthen its national nuclear security infrastructure, the IAEA has donated a specialized cargo vehicle to the country to facilitate the safe and secure transport of radioactive sources to designated specialized storage locations in the country.” “The IAEA is also providing assistance to Moldova in drafting transport security regulations and conducting training courses to authority [sic] personnel.”
  • Ukraine Says Progress Made on IAEA Access to Separatist-Controlled Regions: “Moscow and Kyiv made progress regarding the IAEA access to separatist-controlled territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east of Ukraine.” “Parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions have been out of government control since 2014. According to the Ukrainian authorities, there are two sites in the separatist-controlled territories that require annual IAEA inspections: Donetsk specialized radioactive waste management enterprise of the UkrDO Radon State Corporation and an unspecified medical facility in Luhansk.”
  • Call for Papers: International Conference on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources: “Interested participants have until September 15 to submit a synopsis to present at the IAEA International Conference on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, to be hosted at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, from 20 to 24 June 2022.”

Security Culture

  • Watchdog Halts Japan Nuclear Safety Assessment after Data Tampering: “Japan’s nuclear regulator said Wednesday it will pause its safety assessment of a central Japan reactor in response to the operator having tampered with key geological data related to a fault underneath the facility, putting in doubt its restart after a 10-year shutdown. The Nuclear Regulation Authority said it will stop its evaluation of the No. 2 unit at the Tsuruga nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture until it confirms the operator, Japan Atomic Power Co., has improved the management of data like that which was changed to make the fault appear less active.”
  • The 2021 Insider Threat Virtual Conference, hosted jointly by the Defense Counterintelligence Security Agency, Center for Development of Security Excellence and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, will bring together security professionals and policy makers across U.S. government and industry to kick off the National Insider Threat Awareness Month (NITAM) campaign. This year’s NITAM theme is “Insider Threat and Cultural Awareness.” The virtual conference will take place Thursday, September 2, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. and will wrap by at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.
  • Fire, Floods Ravage Russia, Threaten Nuclear Research Site: “After reports of over 250 fires ravaging through Russia, blazes now threaten a nuclear research center in the city of Sarov, prompting a state of emergency, officials said on Sunday. The danger level was boosted as fires near Nizhny Novgorod are spreading and the change in status makes it easier to mobilize extra firefighting forces, according to city officials.”

Emerging Technologies

  • Virtual Reality in the Nuclear Industry: “The nuclear industry is embracing virtual reality technology to optimise its operations and improve safety, as a recent white paper from Tecknotrove Systems explains.” “While nuclear power plants are usually very safe and secure, they remain prone to severe accidents or production losses due to human errors. Virtual reality makes it possible to create realistic and immersive training environments relating to nuclear power plants to train operators on how to perform the tasks safely.”

Weapons, Materials, and Facilities

  • US NRC Discontinues Work on Reprocessing Regulation: “The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has discontinued work on a rulemaking that would have added a framework for licensing commercial reprocessing facilities to its regulations. In a notice published by the US Federal Register on 29 July, the regulator said its decision was based on the costs of conducting the rulemaking coupled with limited interest from industry.”
  • NNSA Announces Rollout of U.S. Nuclear Nexus Website: “The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) announced today [August 17] the rollout of U.S. Nuclear Nexus, a tool designed to foster timely connections between NNSA and the U.S. nuclear industry on the global deployment of advanced nuclear technology. Nexus will act as a single point of access for NNSA and DOE National Laboratory recommendations, training, tools, and other relevant technical expertise and guidance on nonproliferation.”
  • Russian Troopers Train Radiation Combat Skills in Borderland to Norway: “The threat and consequences from nuclear or radiological events remain as a real scenario for the 200th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade on the Kola Peninsula. Based in the Pechenga valley, the unit is one of the two Russian Arctic warfare brigades. Fighting in a post-nuclear war environment, or handling a radiological terror attack, was the main task of Russian NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) Troops practicing together with the Arctic Brigade at the tankodrom and shooting range at Korzunova, a few kilometers east of the mining town of Zapolyarny.”
  • Statement By Secretary Granholm On President Biden’s Nomination Of Corey Hinderstein: “I am thrilled that President Biden has nominated Corey Hinderstein to serve as Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Everywhere she’s been—from NNSA to top think tanks and academic institutions—Corey has been widely recognized for her expertise and leadership on nuclear security. If confirmed, she would lead our nonproliferation work and help keep our nation—and our world—safe from nuclear threats. I am deeply grateful for Corey’s willingness to return to federal service, and look forward to her speedy confirmation.”
  • Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Temporarily Exempts High Security Nuclear Facilities from Security Exercises: On July 27, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission issued the record of its decision to grant exemption from the regulations, which require operators to conduct “at least one security exercise every two years to test the effectiveness of the contingency plan and of the physical protection system,” to the facilities at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station (NGS), Chalk River Laboratories, Whiteshell Laboratories, the Gentilly-2 Nuclear Installation, the Point Lepreau NGS, the Darlington NGS, and the Pickering NGS. The exemption in the form of a 12- to 24-month deferral would “provide sufficient time for licensees to resume FoF [force-on-force] security exercises, while reducing risk to the health and safety of persons posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Commission concluded that this decision does not pose an “unreasonable risk to national security” or result in a failure to “achieve conformity with international obligations.”

Threats

  • Risks to Persian Gulf Cities from Spent Fuel Fires at the Barakah and Bushehr Nuclear Power Plants: “Interest in nuclear power has grown in some Middle Eastern states despite poor economics, seismic activity, and attacks on nuclear facilities in the region. This article assesses risks from cesium-137 release and dispersal from spent nuclear fuel fires at Barakah in the United Arab Emirates and Bushehr in Iran to public health, the water supply, and the food security of major Persian Gulf cities.”
  • Hackers Return Nearly Half of the $600 Million They Stole in one of the Biggest Crypto Heists: “The cybercriminals exploited a vulnerability in Poly Network, a platform that looks to connect different blockchains so that they can work together. Poly Network disclosed the attack Tuesday and asked to establish communication with the hackers, urging them to ‘return the hacked assets.’ In a strange turn of events Wednesday [August 18], the hackers began returning some of the funds they stole. ‘I think this demonstrates that even if you can steal cryptoassets, laundering them and cashing out is extremely difficult, due to the transparency of the blockchain and the use of blockchain analytics,’ Tom Robinson, chief scientist of blockchain analytics firm Elliptic, said via email.”
  • Top Westinghouse Nuclear Executive Charged with Conspiracy, Fraud in 16-Count Federal Indictment: “Acting United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina M. Rhett DeHart announced today [August 18] that a Federal Grand Jury has charged former Westinghouse Electric Company Senior Vice President Jeffrey A. Benjamin for his role in failing to truthfully report information regarding construction of new nuclear units at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant.”

Member Organization Announcements and Updates

The Centre of Science and Security Studies (CSSS) at King’s College London

The Center for Naval Analyses

  • On August 30th at 11 a.m. ET, CNA’s Strategy and Policy Analysis Program is hosting the event “Diversity in Nuclear Policy: How Has the Field Changed?” Please RSVP to [email protected] using your institutional email address. The conferencing information will be provided shortly before the event.

James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies

  • William Potter co-authored an article on “Russia’s Novel Weapons Systems: Military Innovation in the Post-Soviet Period” for The Nonproliferation Review. Read the article.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative

  • Nuclear Threat Initiative senior leaders and experts will present and participate at the Institute for Nuclear Materials Management & European Safeguards Research and Development Association Joint Annual Virtual Meeting, hosted between August 23 – September 1, 2021. Learn more about the event.

The Stimson Center

  • William M. Moon has joined the Stimson Center as a Nonresident Fellow supporting the Nuclear Security Team. He is an expert on Cooperative Threat Reduction, nuclear security, and arms control with experience working on nuclear warhead security and arms control verification cooperation with Russia. He retired from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency in February 2019 after 30 years of federal service.
  • The Stimson Center’s Nuclear Security program published an article “Inventory Management Cooperation: A Core Function of Nuclear Security” by William M. Moon. Read the article.
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