Physical Security of Nuclear Sites

Physical Security of Nuclear Sites | Delta Scientific

The first Nuclear Security Summit was held in 2010 with the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear material worldwide within four years. Since that time, countries that store nuclear materials have made great progress, but the challenge of securing them has proven difficult to overcome despite three subsequent Nuclear Security Summits at two-year intervals. Securing nuclear weapons and materials is a top priority for the United States, and Delta Scientific products may have a role to play in safeguarding the facilities where the materials are stored. 

Why Is Securing Nuclear Weapons and Materials Important?

The thought of nuclear weapons in the hands of governments is concerning enough on its own. If such a weapon were ever detonated, it would alter the course of history. However, the thought of terrorists, who have committed to trying to cause as much chaos and destruction as possible, obtaining weapons-usable nuclear materials is even more horrifying. 

Terrorists wouldn’t even have to steal a nuclear weapon or construct their own to cause widespread destruction. If they were to get ahold of weapons-usable nuclear materials, including plutonium or highly enriched uranium, they could make a so-called dirty bomb. This is an ordinary explosive laced with nuclear material that causes radioactive fallout when it explodes. 

What Are the Challenges Involved in Securing Nuclear Materials?

Part of the problem is that there are hundreds of sites around the world where weapons-usable nuclear materials are stored. They span 22 different countries. The state of security in some of these locations is better than in others, and there is no universal standard for them to follow to improve the state of security. With no best practices to follow, some states have little guidance to follow to improve the quality of their security. 

Not all of the countries take security as seriously as the United States does. The Nuclear Security Contact Group is a collection of countries involved in the NSS that agreed to meet following the conclusion of the summits to promote the commitments agreed to in the NSS and to track their implementation. Russia was originally part of this group but stopped participating in it. In 2016, it also pulled out of the Summit process itself. Other countries are not living up to the expectations established in the NSS, continuing to stockpile nuclear materials. 

What Role Can Delta Scientific Products Play in Nuclear Security?

Government officials have identified multiple measures that need to be taken to secure vulnerable nuclear materials around the world. One of these steps is physical security. Nuclear storage facilities need to control traffic and prevent unauthorized vehicles from getting inside the perimeter. While it is unlikely that terrorists trying to obtain plutonium or HEU would ram the building to try to destroy it, they may try to exploit a vulnerability to gain access. A crash-rated barricade capable of stopping a 15,000-pound truck traveling up to 50 miles per hour could thwart the attempt. 

Since it would not take very much nuclear material to create a devastating dirty bomb, these sites must also guard against unauthorized access by people on foot. Sliding gates and anti-climb doors are designed to be effective deterrents against pedestrians. 

It is impossible to calculate the risk of a nuclear terrorist attack. However, it is possible to identify the measures that need to be taken to prevent one and keep tabs on their progress.