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"Nuclear Terrorism: A Strategy for Prevention"

Heavy concrete blocks over steel security doors help protect nuclear warhead storage at Pantex.
Department of Energy

"Nuclear Terrorism: A Strategy for Prevention"

Book Chapter, Going Nuclear: Nuclear Proliferation and International Security in the 21st Century, pages 329-367

January 2010

Author: Matthew Bunn, Professor of Practice; Co-Principal Investigator, Project on Managing the Atom

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Managing the Atom; Quarterly Journal: International Security; Science, Technology, and Public Policy


Other Chapters in Going Nuclear: Nuclear Proliferation and International Security in the 21st Century:

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 about this publication please contact the IS Editorial Assistant at 617-495-1914.

For Academic Citation:

Bunn, Matthew. "Nuclear Terrorism: A Strategy for Prevention." Going Nuclear: Nuclear Proliferation and International Security in the 21st Century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010.

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