Earlier this year, the International Business Times and others reported that – in its Strategic Plan 2016-2020 – the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) belatedly referred to “the range of modern and evolving threats to the security of the nuclear industry, including threats to cyber security and the contribution nuclear security makes to national security”:
“We recognise the world is increasingly globalised and digitised, where both the terrorist threat and the risks from cyberspace are changing. The government and duty-holders have well developed security capabilities to deter and defend against organisations and individuals that might conspire to attack or exploit the nuclear estate”, P65.
The ONR named safe and secure nuclear materials transport as a key enabler of the nuclear industry’s activities – see recent concern on this count here.
According to i journalist Mark Leftly, this is the first time that Britain’s ONR has explicitly acknowledged such a danger, though the BBC website records that in 2001 Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called on the world’s nuclear powers to tighten security at their nuclear plants, to avoid them being targeted by terrorists.
Making haste slowly
The regulator said that it will issue new outcome-focused security regulatory guidance in March 2017 and – in standard civil service circumlocution – will “review and update the strategic plan annually, based on changes in circumstances, revised assumptions about the nuclear landscape, changes in operating and business environments, and adjustments to regulatory priorities”.
In a report in 2014, John Large, a chartered engineer whose experience includes assessing nuclear safety and nuclear related accidents and incidents, and research for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, pointed out that nuclear reactors are highly vulnerable to drone attacks.
Electricité de France (EDF) filed a legal complaint against persons unknown following the flights over seven sites by drones said to have been large enough to carry explosives. Large provided evidence to the French Parliament that as nuclear plants were built in the 1950s and 1960s, their designs focused on guarding them against accidents and not from terrorist attacks: “That’s one of the problems they [the nuclear industry] face”.
One less than reassuring measure announced in the face of ‘evolving threats’: the decision to dispense with the services of about two hundred members of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary by 2020.