Book Chapter - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Nuclear Terrorism: A Strategy for Prevention

| January 2010

On the night of November 8, 2007, two teams of armed men attacked the Pelindaba nuclear facility in South Africa, where hundreds of kilograms of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) were stored. One of the teams opened fire on the site security forces, who reportedly fled. The other team of four armed men went through a 10,000-volt security fence, disabled the intrusion detectors so that no alarms sounded—possibly using insider knowledge of the security system—broke into the emergency control center, and shot a worker there in the chest after a brief struggle. The worker at the emergency control center raised an alarm for the first time. These intruders spent forty-five minutes inside the secured perimeter without ever being engaged by site security forces, and then disappeared through the same point in the fence by which they had entered. No one on either team has been caught or identified. The security manager resigned, and some of the guards on duty that night were fired. The South African government has not released important details of its investigation of the attack. Moreover, before the attack, South Africa had refused U.S. offers to remove the HEU at Pelindaba or to help improve security at the facility, and it continues to refuse such offers. Indeed, South Africa has delayed for years establishing and implementing a requirement that the site be able to defend against a defined set of potential attacker capabilities, known as a design basis threat (DBT), as recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). As of the time of the attack, South African security regulations did not yet include a DBT...." 

For more information on this publication: Please contact International Security
For Academic Citation: Bunn, Matthew. “Nuclear Terrorism: A Strategy for Prevention.” In Going Nuclear: Nuclear Proliferation and International Security in the 21st Century. January 2010.

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