Defense

The US Is About Send Weapons-Grade Uranium To A Belgian Reactor Targeted By ISIS

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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A U.S. company has put forward a bid to send 300 pounds of highly enriched uranium (HEU), enough material for six or more bombs, to a Belgian reactor that was the subject of intelligence for Islamic State terrorists.

Edlow International Company put forward an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to provide the nuclear fuel to Belgium’s BR-2 reactor in July. Belgian security officials found that an ISIS terrorist Mohamed Bakkali had been surveilling a senior official at the Belgian Nuclear Research Center, the facility which houses the BR-2, for hours before he was arrested for involvement in last year’s attacks on Paris. The security risk posed by providing weapons-grade uranium to the facility prompted the University of Texas at Austin’s Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project (NPPP) to start a petition calling for a halt to the uranium transfer.

“This clear and present danger underscores the urgency of minimizing the supply of HEU to the BR-2 reactor, and ending that supply as soon as possible,” said University of Texas Prof. Alan J. Kuperman , NPPP’s coordinator, in the petition.

Kuperman’s primary concern is the possibility of ISIS terrorists gaining access to the HEU once it is sent to Belgium, giving them an integral piece of bomb-making material.

“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 News Foundation.

According to the NPPP, there is a solution that could allow the BR-2 reactor to continue to produce energy and prevent its fuel from being used as weapons: converting it to use low-enriched uranium (LEU) that is not satisfactory for use in weapons.

The process would be relatively straightforward, according to Kuperman. First, nuclear scientists would have to do some neutronic calculations on a computer and submit a new core design based on LEU fuel to the proper authorities. Once the new core is installed, the only remaining step would require procurement of LEU fuel.

“Over 65 research reactors have successfully been converted from HEU to LEU fuel,” Kuperman told TheDCNF.

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