There are a number of nuclear security incidents that happened in the past; a considerable number of incidents happen on the nearly daily basis. However, these are not so widely known as nuclear safety area‘s accidents (for instance, Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters). There are a different kind of nuclear security incidents occurred word wide where nuclear and other radioactive materials were present or used, or those incidents occurred at related infrastructure and enterprises.
Nuclear security threats derive from the intentional, malevolent activities (or inaction) using nuclear and radioactive materials that may cause negative, harmful consequences – radiation exposure of the population, contamination, accidents at special installations, social instability and other.
The threat of sabotage, cyberattack, theft and proliferation of nuclear and other radioactive materials arise anytime when adversary gain an access to the materials and installations. The threat also occurs when unauthorised persons obtain materials out of the regulatory control, intentionally or occasionally. This happens on the “black market” or people just find orphaned, dumped sources (for instance, Goiania incident, 1987).
Lastly, uncontrolled, illicit materials can be used for a terror attack.
The diagram below presents the different kind of nuclear security incidents occurred in 1993-2019.
Instances of nuclear security incidents:
- In 1992 m. in Lithuania, a fresh nuclear fuel assembly was stolen from the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (NPP). The crime was committed by the workers of the NPP and security staff. Investigation revealed, that 7 m. length and 270 kg weighted fresh fuel rod was fixed at beneath the bottom of the bus and covertly brought out from the NPP. Investigation managed to find and collect the most particles of the stolen fuel rod, but some uranium pellets still have been discovered from time to time.
- Often the incidents are related to the theft or loss of industrial gauges. Such moisture or density gauges are widely used for constructions. These tools are often transported, temporary stored outside of secured storages, sometimes – in remote places where security level is reduced. Taking into account that these gauges have integrated high activity radioactive sources, it may be dangerous for the people and environment if the device is dismantled; additionally, dismantled radioactive sources may be potentially used for the malicious purposes or smuggled nationally or internationally.