A U.S. company that produces highly enriched uranium is set to transfer upwards of 300 pounds of the weapons-grade nuclear material to a major nuclear reactor in Europe, but some are questioning the wisdom of such of a move given the current terrorist threat level.
Specifically, the material that could be used to make six or more nuclear bombs has been earmarked for the BR-2 nuclear reactor in Belgium, according to a bid put forward with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the Edlow International Company, according to The Daily Caller.
There is a bit of a problem with that transaction though, namely the fact that that particular reactor had been under surveillance in the past by an Islamic State group-connected terrorist by the name of Mohamed Bakkali, who was also believed to have been involved in the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015.
Now, a professor who leads the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Program at the University of Texas at Austin has cited that security risk as the impetus for a petition demanding a halt to the proposed transfer of uranium to a facility targeted by terrorists.
“This clear and present danger underscores the urgency of minimizing the supply of [highly enriched uranium] to the BR-2 reactor, and ending that supply as soon as possible,” declared the petition by University of Texas Prof. Alan J. Kuperman, coordinator of the NPPP.
Kuperman’s main concern is the chance that Islamic State group-directed or inspired terrorists could get their hands on the material intended for the nuclear reactor, obtaining a major component that would give them the opportunity to construct their own nuclear devices.
“If terrorists obtain sufficient highly enriched uranium, they could make an actual nuclear weapon — which could kill tens of thousands of people — not merely a dirty bomb which could create some chaos but probably wouldn’t kill anyone,” Kuperman told the Daily Caller.
Instead of shipping the highly enriched uranium over to Belgium, running the risk of it being intercepted or stolen by terrorists for their own nefarious purposes, Kuperman proposed that the Belgian reactor transition itself use low-enriched uranium fuel that is not considered weapons-grade material.
Though it would certainly require some work and investment, the process to shift from using highly enriched uranium to the lesser-enriched variety is relatively straightforward, and is not at all unprecedented. Over 65 research reactors have successfully been converted from highly enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium, Kuperman revealed.
Of course, it remains to be seen if the professor’s petition will gain any traction in preventing this potentially dangerous transfer of risky nuclear material that could fall into the wrong hands, so we will keep an eye out for any developments in this story.
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