South African Nuclear Plant Attacked

Apparently, one of South Africa’s nuclear plant has recently been the victim of an attempt to breach its security.

On the same night last week that four robbers shot an emergency officer at Pelindaba, West of Pretoria, another attempt was made to bypass the nuclear site’s security.

The site’s outer security perimeter was breached in both incidents, SA Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) chief executive Rob Adam disclosed today.

An emergency services officer was shot and wounded by four armed robbers who slipped through the electric fence on Thursday night.

At more or less the same time, a patrolling security officer spotted intruders at the western section of the Necsa site. Shots were fired and the intruders fled.

It bears keeping in mind that South Africa had nuclear weapons at one point in time and then destroyed them. The Times of South Africa speculates that the goal of the attacks may have been to seek research on those weapons:

But there may well be invaluable research and data stored at the facility on the process of producing weapons-grade nuclear material at Pelindaba.

It is highly unlikely that the “military-style” gang which attacked the facility was merely after the computers for their paltry resale value.

They must have been seeking whatever intelligence they knew to be on these computers.

Regardless of the reasons for the attack on the nuclear site, this is a troubling situation. Hopefully South African authorities can track down the perpetrators soon.

More information on the incident here and here.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Terrorism,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    I could see a “military style” gang going after radioactive materials, but “knowledge” on refining uranium or plutonium to make a bomb?

    Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper to hire someone from Russia (or South Africa) and is now out of a job?

  2. DC Loser says:

    But there may well be invaluable research and data stored at the facility on the process of producing weapons-grade nuclear material at Pelindaba.

    Whoever wrote that doesn’t know jack about the state of knowledge available to bombmakers. The problem isn’t knowing HOW to build the bomb, but rather getting the equipment and the fissile material needed for the bomb.

    As for out of work Russians, they might have been available 10 years ago, but nowadays the Russian government is swimming in money from its gas and oil sales. The nuclear scientists are all gainfully employed.

  3. Ohadi Langis says:
  4. Richard Gardner says:

    When I saw the location Pelindaba, I started reading closer, as that isn’t just a nuclear power plant, but the location of the South African (under apartheid) nuclear research facility (= bomb making facility, also where they were stored), AND the location where the African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty (ANFWZ), also known as the Treaty of Pelindaba, was concluded – so this is a symbolic location. South Africa’s nuclear bombs were dismantled under IAEA supervision in 1994.

    Clicking on a couple more links, I see the raiders got all the way into the nuclear plant control room (which means exactly what it sounds like – the heart that controls the plant), which I find totally amazing. And then went to the control panel (um, there have to be multiple control panels (or one really big one)for a power plant, so I’m guessing they mean the one that controls the reactor).

    DCLoser wrote:

    Whoever wrote that doesn’t know jack about the state of knowledge available to bombmakers. The problem isn’t knowing HOW to build the bomb, but rather getting the equipment and the fissile material needed for the bomb.

    I partially disagree as there is not enough information. There is no way of knowing the general knowledge level of the attackers. I only have to point to the numerous Red Mercury scams that occurred in the 90s – sometimes folks think they can get more than is available. The objective in gaining access to a reactor control room sure isn’t clear here. Two and two are not making four.