The Very Real Threat of Nuclear Terrorism

April 14, 2016 | Emily Landau and Shimon Stein
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Islamic State (IS) has already managed to obtain chemical weapons and has put them to use in the battlefield. In Europe, meanwhile, it may have tried to target nuclear facilities in Brussels. While it is currently unlikely to obtain an actual nuclear weapon, write Emily Landau and Shimon Stein, one or another terrorist group could very well use radioactive material in an attack:

To be sure, the threat of nuclear terrorism is not new. . . . But events surrounding the Brussels attacks raise the possibility of intent being joined by capability, if Islamic State terrorists are able to exploit the security vulnerabilities of nuclear facilities, . . . either to attack these sites or steal materials from within. A radiological attack could occur through dispersion of radioactive materials from a drone . . . or by an attack on a nuclear facility that released these materials. . . .

The recent attempts in Brussels by members of Islamic State to sabotage and gain access to material and know-how in the nuclear realm highlight the urgency, and underscore that the international community must do its utmost at the national, regional, and global levels to deny the terrorists that possibility. . . .

What might be Israel’s contribution to these international efforts? Israel has been a part of President Obama’s nuclear-security initiative from the start, and has actively participated in all of the [relevant] summits with high-level delegations. Israel attributes great importance to the issue, especially in light of the increase in nuclear programs throughout the Middle East. [At the most] recent summit, Israel noted that it is prepared for the scenario of a radiological attack; moreover, it is prepared to help other states in the region prevent the smuggling of radioactive materials into their territory. Indeed, this is an issue that could be discussed in a regional framework, if a regional security dialogue were to be initiated in the Middle East.

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