Belgium planned to bring 317 pounds of American weapons-grade uranium — enough to make several nuclear weapons — to a facility that was reportedly being targeted by terrorists. Officials canceled the shipment in February, about one month before the deadly terror attacks in Brussels.
Official correspondences dated Feb. 29 show the Belgian government asked America’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission and National Nuclear Security Administration to suspend its weapons-grade uranium order to fuel a nuclear research center in Mol. The correspondences were obtained by the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project and reveal Belgian officials only cancelled the uranium order in February so the country could restructure how it would receive the enriched uranium.
The Belgian nuclear research center in Mol has been targeted by Islamic State-linked terrorists, according to a recent New York Times article. Surveillance footage of a senior Belgian nuclear official was found in a raid on one of the Brussels apartment of alleged terrorist Mohamed Bakkali in Feburary. Bakkali is being held for his involvement in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks. The footage caused officials to worry ISIS may try to target nuclear infrastructure even before the Brussels attacks.
Belgium will still have to request weapons grade uranium from the U.S. next year to continue operating the research center, unless significant changes to the facility are made. France has a similar high performance reactor that runs on highly enriched American-supplied uranium.
“The recent awareness of the terrorist threat to the facility highlights the need to convert these facilities as quickly as possible to non-bomb grade uranium fuel,” Dr. Alan J. Kuperman, a public affairs professor at the University of Texas Austin, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“We should also minimize the amount of weapons grade uranium we export to Europe, no more than one years supply. Currently the Belgians and French receive a five years supply of weapons grade uranium,” said Kuperman, who edited a 2014 book on nuclear terrorism and global security.
Edwin Lyman, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told TheDCNF Monday that an attack on a nuclear power plant could have catastrophic consequences but would require extensive knowledge of the target.
Belgian officials reportedly withdrew their export request because they decided to create new fuel for the research center. As a result, the Belgians are expected to submit a new request to export the radioactive material from the U.S next year.
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