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Security At Nuclear Facilities: Danger Likely Lurks From Within 72

Posted by Soulskill
from the only-trust-people-who-don't-work-there dept.
mdsolar (1045926) sends this excerpt from the Stanford Report: "Insider threats are the most serious challenge confronting nuclear facilities in today's world, a Stanford political scientist says. In every case of theft of nuclear materials where the circumstances of the theft are known, the perpetrators were either insiders or had help from insiders, according to Scott Sagan and his co-author, Matthew Bunn of Harvard University, in a research paper published this month by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 'Given that the other cases involve bulk material stolen covertly without anyone being aware the material was missing, there is every reason to believe that they were perpetrated by insiders as well,' they wrote. And theft is not the only danger facing facility operators; sabotage is a risk as well ... While there have been sabotage attempts in the United States and elsewhere against nuclear facilities conducted by insiders, the truth may be hard to decipher in an industry shrouded in security, [Sagan] said. The most recent known example occurred in 2012 – an apparent insider sabotage of a diesel generator at the San Onofre nuclear facility in California. Arguably the most spectacular incident happened at South Africa's Koeberg nuclear power plant (then under construction) in South Africa in 1982 when someone detonated explosives directly on a nuclear reactor."
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Security At Nuclear Facilities: Danger Likely Lurks From Within

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  • And another blatant attempt to spread it. Any significant sabotage to a nuke plant that actually leads to a nuclear release is a whole lot harder to pull off than the perception given off in this article.
    • Yeah, I mean think about the security of the oil infrastructure. Sure it's not "radiation," but an oil spill is a big deal. Oil is already shipped in takner cars which have a nasty habit of exploding on their own, much less with a little help. Then you have all those huge pipelines, and oil tankers. Not to mention offshore rigs, or messing with a fracking operation.

      When it comes to energy or environmental security, nuclear plants are not where I would start.

      This isn't even getting into the radiation dea

      • by nojayuk (567177)

        Both the Allies and the Axis forces sank millions of tonnes of loaded oil tankers during WWII, not to mention similar tonnages of warships each with many tonnes of fuel oil on board. One of the submerged museum ships at Pearl Harbor was still leaking fuel decades after it was sunk in 1941. As far as I know this extended and untreated oil spillage has had little long-term effect on sealife and the general health of the oceans worldwide.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      Any significant sabotage to a nuke plant that actually leads to a nuclear release is a whole lot harder to pull off

      Theft of radioactive materials... probably not so much.. but is theft from an active plant the easiest route that the bad guys are going to pick? They could actually buy it on the open market...

      Also... come to think of it.... there's 200 square miles or so of wasteland from chernobyl in Ukraine with radioactive materials there, essentially abandoned.

      Granted, it's been 30 years, a

      • by iggymanz (596061)

        no, there is 200 square miles with dust you wouldn't want to eat. The real "bad stuff" is inside a structure called The Sarcophagus, and no worries no bad guys will be going inside there to steal the "corium", the rad levels are 10,000 rem / hour, their nervous system would shut down prior to their rather prompt death. A new project called the New Safe Confinement is underway to surround the Sarcophagus, and then to dismantle that and remove the curium and other contaminated materials.

        • by mysidia (191772)

          rad levels are 10,000 rem / hour, their nervous system would shut down prior to their rather prompt death.

          I suppose not. However, the bad guys may be suicidal errorists, remember?

          Also... if some Ukranian extremists think the Russians are about to take their country, they might opt to blow open the Sarcophagus... Also instead of entering the building on foot, the bad guys may bring in a few thousand pounds of high explosives to open up the structure and disperse materials -- they just need to collec

      • Walk yourself through the steps, support structure and equipment that would be required to pull that off balanced against the likelihood of getting caught. Then you might sleep better. Evil ones tend to choose easier paths.
        • Walk yourself through the steps, support structure and equipment that would be required to pull that off balanced against the likelihood of getting caught. Then you might sleep better. Evil ones tend to choose easier paths.

          "Hello --- Doc --- I'm having trouble getting to sleep lately. The sheep are wearing strange equipment, some carry rolls of blueprints in their mouth. But the most bizarre thing is, they're counting down not up. I tried flipping my mattress over but I just wound up underneath it. What should I do??"

          But more seriously, what we have here is a reminder that Insider threats are the most serious challenge confronting ___________ in today's world, Captain Obvious says. This modern post-9/11 genre has its root

          • Nuclear energy is by far the most profitable energy on the big business, macroeconomic scale, especially when you consider available reserves, and carbon emission/global warming issues. Unfortunately it has the safety issue side, as nuclear energy is so energy rich, a single terrorist event can wipe out entire cities. And I don't mean the small ones, but the biggest of the biggest cities. A weapon of such capability is unprecedented in the history of human warfare. So how we gonna live then, we must assume
    • Why sabotage a plant if you can steal nuclear material and make a dirty bomb. It's been proven that stealing material is relatively easy. Making a conventional bomb that will contaminate a large area with the nuclear material strapped to it is also known to be easy. The only reason nuclear is part of this is because it's so incredibly poisonous and relatively easy to transport and use in a dirty bomb. There are few, if any materials that will make a DIY explosive so effective as this.

      This is not about fea
      • by cffrost (885375)

        Why sabotage a plant if you can steal nuclear material and make a dirty bomb[?]

        Because sabotage may be difficult to detect beforehand, and even more difficult to definitively prove as sabotage, apart from human error or mechanical failure, depending on the nature of the sabotage. I believe that a competent saboteur is probably more likely to both succeed and avoid detection/prosecution than would a radiological-material thief.

        Further, the trade-offs involved in adding a radiological component to a conventional bomb aren't favorable; the investigation into the theft the radiological ma

  • No kidding (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The most serious security threat facing anything is the insider threat. Retail theft, copyright infringement from the movie/publishing industries, keeping trade secrets, etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "an apparent insider sabotage of a diesel generator at the San Onofre nuclear facility in California"

    Federal nuclear regulators investigate failure of backup San Onofre diesel generator during testing [ocregister.com]

    San Onofre - how did coolant end up in emergency diesel generator oil system? [nuclear.com]

  • The article in Stanford News is informal, but it refers to a scholarly research paper that is a retrospective of historical events, and its conclusions seem to be well-supported by facts.
    • When one of your leading examples is an unsuccessful attempt at a plant under construction, where it doesn't even matter because there is no nuclear material even on site, then you might find reason to be a tiny bit critical rather than blindly accepting. However, the article does point out that so far the security approach has worked quite well in the US.
      • by Tontoman (737489) *
        No exactly. The paper suggests that "truth may be hard to decipher in an industry shrouded in security" which makes sense because incidents/responses would probably be highly classified. Especially involving insiders. So the best "leading examples" as you say would probably not be published in a publicly-available source.
        • All nuclear plant incidents are publicly reported, including security related incidents. Certain details may not always be available for obvious reasons.
          • by Tontoman (737489) *
            Link? I know that NRC hasn't reported any incidents before 1999 http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/... [nrc.gov] . The wikipedia page speaks of incidents which are just recently declassified http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N... [wikipedia.org] (footnote 43) and were not disclosed to the public by the DOE (see rocketdyne )
            That being said, (and fwiw) Nuclear power as safe, clean energy. However doesn't take away the value of the research paper as to potential threat posed by insiders. Even if it has never happened, it still would be horr
            • pre 1999 is not documented online, you'll need to make a trip to DC and they'll let you in the document room. Looks like you have the link to the rest already.

              Also, don't confuse nuclear weapons incidents with nuclear power, unless that's just intentional on your part.
              • by Tontoman (737489) *
                Two brief points:
                1. a link to some reports does not support your assertion that "All nuclear plant incidents are publicly reported." It seems likely to me some incidents are classified. But would welcome a link from you to something that backs up what you said. (for example, if there is an official policy that none are classified)
                2. The paper mentioned in TFA referred to nuclear facilities and was not limited to just nuclear power plants
                • 10CFR 50.70 contains reporting requirements for commercial nuclear plants.

                  Clearly the discussion and the focus of the article were on commercial nuclear power plants, as were the comments. The NRC did not always have authority over DOE activities involving nuclear material, and still has very limited DOD involvement. The NRC does cover all commercial uses of radioactive material such as medical or industrial testing, as well as waste from those.
    • no, it is hysteria-mongering. much ado about nothing. there is no credible evidence sabotage has *ever* caused dangerous release of radiation at any nuclear power plant. the 2012 event in the USA was more likely mistake than sabotage, see my other comment

      • by Tontoman (737489) *
        So you are saying that because the "2012 event" was caused by a mistake rather than a by a malicious action by the insider. So you are saying that there is no legitimate fear because the motive of the insider was probably pure. However, this is contradicted by the paper which said: An internal investigation found “evidence of potential tampering as the cause of the abnormal condition,” as the company reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
        Another way to look at it is this: Fro
  • "the truth may be hard to decipher in an industry shrouded in security"

    Just look at this fucking sentence. Look at it. I read things like this and I wonder how we as a species ever got to the point that there was an internet in the first place. How can you not realize that opacity is the bane of security. If anything about nuclear facilities is to be secure at all the rules, regulations and operations governing the entire structure need to be knowable when circumstance requires it. That this is not the case

    • If anything about nuclear facilities is to be secure at all the rules, regulations and operations governing the entire structure need to be knowable when circumstance requires it.

      And they are. Clearly, the writing of this article was not one of those circumstances.

    • "the truth may be hard to decipher in an industry shrouded in security"
      Well that because the Illuminati tell the Trilateral Commission Puppeteers how to pull the Koch Bros strings to have Big-Oil funnel billions of dollars of secret funding to Climate deniers so that they can continue to sell fossil fuels at commodity prices instead of selling their post-peak resources as high profit boutique petro-chemicals. Of course the answer could be just plain ol' boring nothing to see here. At the end of the day the

  • by iggymanz (596061) on Saturday April 26, 2014 @04:35PM (#46849451)

    that's the best example they could come up with for the USA in the past few decades? Let me tell you about that incident, it was found that some dumb-ass had poured engine coolant into the oil tank. "Suspected Possible Sabotage" read the headlines, but smart money would be on stupid mistake as that would not have caused damage to reactor even if generators needed, it was part of redundant set which is required in USA.

    Sabotage at nuke plants is largely a non-issue, too hard to make something bad happen. Worst case you'd trip the reactor offline and make the shareholders angry at the lost power generating time.

    • Sabotage at nuke plants is largely a non-issue, too hard to make something bad happen

      True. Honda generators are heavy. No one wants to lug those things across the parking lot.

  • You die. Seriously, the stuff that's radioactive enough to make a dirty bomb is radioactive enough to kill you before you get offsite. New fuel (less than 5% enriched uranium) is not particularly radioactive. It's perfectly safe to stand next to it; to inspect it before you put it in the nuclear reactor. On the other hand, spent fuel is incredibly radioactive, and when it's being handled it's kept under 30' of water so it doesn't kill everyone in the building.

    Now, let's assume you had access to the fuel long enough to get it out of the pool. You would receive a lethal dose of radiation in 36 seconds; enough to kill you within a month. Even if death doesn't come for weeks, you would be rapidly debilitated- which of course would leave you immobile next to something giving off massive amounts of radiation, so I imagine you'd be dead-dead within a half hour. Probably much less.

    Now, there is spent fuel that's had several years to decay sitting in dry storage on most nuclear sites, but they're kept in casks and bunkers which are so robust, you're not going to be able to steal or breach them in less time than it takes for three states worth of Law Enforcement and FBI to come crashing down on your party.

    That fuel in dry storage would still kill you, but it would take longer.

    • by datorum (1280144)

      > That fuel in dry storage would still kill you, but it would take longer.
      you are such a negative person.

    • While everything you say is true, it's also completely irrelevant.

      Or do you believe that the mentality of Suicide Bombers does not apply in this situation?
      • No, it is completely relevant. This stuff is so radioactive that "you will die if you go near it" means a bit more than "you'll have a 75% higher chance of getting cancer ten years later".

        It's more like "you'll start going barmy, having fits and and your arse will literally shite itself inside out before you can get anywhere near the zionist running dogs with it, PBUY".

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      So, you don't actually steal it. You blow it up, along with the site itself. Cause safety system failure and cause a meltdown. If you don't plan to survive the attack, you can certainly use a nuclear plant itself as a sort of weapon.

      Hmm, now I have to wait more than 4 minutes between comments. There's always something new here on slashdot, and it always sucks ass.

      • So, you don't actually steal it. You blow it up, along with the site itself. Cause safety system failure and cause a meltdown. If you don't plan to survive the attack, you can certainly use a nuclear plant itself as a sort of weapon.

        You say it like that would be easy. It wouldn't. Nuclear power plants have significant numbers of armed guards who run drills against adversary teams trying to do just that sort of thing; a factor that's very important, but omitted due to the nature of my previous point.

        I'd also like to point out there is a short supply of suicide attackers who have any sort of real capacity to run a mission. 9/11 was the last time anyone with more than five brain cells willingly died in an attack. There's been the occasi

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          You say it like that would be easy. It wouldn't.

          Right, and to come full circle, that's why security at nuclear facilities is important. If it were easy, maybe someone would do it.

          I'd also like to point out there is a short supply of suicide attackers who have any sort of real capacity to run a mission. 9/11 was the last time anyone with more than five brain cells willingly died in an attack.

          I'd bet you could find more if they thought their lives would be spent usefully.

  • Insider threats are the most serious challenge confronting pretty much anything.

  • This goes far beyond a nuclear issue. Sadly the US has narrowed its definition of mental illness severely. Whether it be a worker in a power plant or some troubled fool wanting to shoot up a school we simply have no effective way to identify and treat many off the wall personalities and worse yet we have not been willing to square off against certain glaring facts. For example if a person is sexually attracted to young children they are mentally ill. The desire is in itself the proof. The same ap
    • Uhm, not sure what exactly you're focusing on. Are you saying that lots of people are mentally ill, and shouldn't be allowed to do something like work anywhere dangerous, which is just about everywhere?

      I would argue that one of the big problems is the stigmatization of mental illness. Here in the states the idea of even seeing a psychiatrist is met with scorn. Employers won't hire those people, and many people will treat them as though they were infectious. If it's something that may lead to violence th

  • The biggest danger from nuclear is acute exposure and death to thousands and perhaps millions of human and humanlike species in the future as storage facilities are pilfered over the next 1,000,000-10,000,000 years.

    How many of you could read a warning written in cuneiform? That language is one of the earliest known languages and is only about 5,000 years old. Let's say that most people in the world can probably only read a language that's 500 years old or less, and may struggle with earlier written versions

    • One of the first things to understand about radioactive materials is "half-life". Half-life is how long it takes for the material to radiate half of its energy. A short half-life material radiates significant energy in a short time. A long half-life means it takes a long time to radiate siginificantly.

      Suppose a particular material has enough radioactive energy that 1/10th of the energy would do significant damage. If it has a half-life ten days and you swallowed it, you'd get sick after 10 days / 10 = 1

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Sure, you can eat as many carrots and potatoes and probably bananas as you like without worrying about the radiation. And in practical terms, you simply can't stack enough of them up to be a problem for people standing next to them for any length of time that people will be standing next to them, even if they work on a banana plantation. But what comes out of a nuclear reactor ain't carrots and potatoes, or even bananas.

        Sigh. How does a five minute posting delay make Slashdot better? If you could only have

        • > But what comes out of a nuclear reactor ain't carrots and potatoes, or even bananas.

          Indeed, long half-life waste is FAR safer. The main waste material with a long half-life is plutonium 239. Pu 239 radiates alpha particles. Alpha particles are stopped by tissue paper, by 10 cm of air, and by skin. It is strongly recommended that you keep some skin or air in between the plutonium and your vital organs - eating it is not recommended. (In my previous post I should have said "store it under your bed" rat

    • How many of you could read a warning written in cuneiform? That language is one of the earliest known languages and is only about 5,000 years old.

      Cuneiform isn't a language.

  • Yeah, insider threat-- it's called incompetence. Things like building a reactor on a fault line, building a reactor on the Pacific rim shoreline (need the water, right? Hello Tsunami). We thought we could build a steamship that couldn't sink, too, but we were wrong. The fact there's been a significant nuclear accident every couple of decades. They're usually connected with gross incompetence of some form or other, in either the design or operation. How many Chernobyls and Fukushimas do we have to hav
  • Pointing out that the greatest security threat comes from the inside is first day stuff in any training on security. This is effectively scaremongering over nuclear power. Nuclear power plants are the most secure places in the USA outside of a military base or prison.

    I was once invited to take a tour of a nuclear power plant. I thought that would be fun. Problem was that I was told I'd have to go through a background check to go on the property. That was a buzz kill. It's not that I thought I would no

  • We spent decades with the all United States nuclear launchcodes at 00000000 and having that practically pasted on the refridgerator in the lunchroom. If nobody was willing to act on that, I doubt they would act on a much less appealing target like a nuclear facility.
  • "The Near-Miss

    The NRC sent an SIT to the plant in response to the potential tampering of a fuel oil line for an emergency diesel generator that was discovered on May 26, 2013. Reflecting the NRC’s post-9/11 procedures, the SIT report on the problems and their remedies is not publicly available. However, the cover letter sent to the plant owner with the SIT report is publicly available, and indicates that the agency identified one violation it classified as Severity Level IV (Reis 2013a)." http://www [ucsusa.org]
  • Insiders are responsible for the greatest number of security issues.... so far. The NRC runs external attack exercise from time to time and plants end up showing vulnerabilities. Security guards are found asleep on duty. Spent fuel pools are not hardened against artillery or aerial bombardment. Collapse the spent fuel racks and you'll get a a meltdown scaled to a reactor many times the size of the reactor on site.

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