When we think of nuclear terrorism, we think of a nuclear bomb smuggled into an American city. Or, perhaps, a plane crashing into a nuclear reactor. But nuclear terrorism suddenly got a whole lot easier than planning either of those scenarios. Suddenly, it’s as easy as emptying a pool of water. At Japanese news site Asahi, Fumihiko Yoshida reports about spent-fuel-rod pools like those that overheated in Fukushima for lack of cooling water.
“If pools were damaged by a terrorist attack and water was lost, the scenario would be the same as what occurred at the Fukushima plant,” said [Allison Macfarlane, associate professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University].
Charles Ferguson, president of the Federation of American Scientists explains how such damage might occur.
. . . a possible cyber attack . . . could instantly kill a regional grid that provides electricity to nuclear power plants and on-site backup electrical systems, resulting in a Fukushima-type disaster.
In other words, instead of setting off a bomb or targeting a reactor directly, terrorists could cause a Fukushima-type disaster by instead targeting the functioning of spent-fuel-rod pools. At least one world leader is taking this to heart. Yoshida again.
Several days after the crisis began on March 11, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the expanding threat of a nuclear catastrophe in Japan had changed his thinking on the safety of nuclear power.
“It certainly caused me to reconsider the projects of building civil nuclear power plants” in Israel, he said. [Physicist and one-time White House national security advisor Frank] Von Hippel’s interpretation of this comment is that considering the instability in the Middle East today, Netanyahu’s new position reflects, at least to some extent, security concerns about the potential use of nuclear power plants as “radioactive bombs” if they are targeted for attack.
Not only are the damaged reactors at Fukushima leaking radiation, they’re discharging ideas how to turn nuclear reactors into terrorist weapons.