Nuclear energy a threat in wrong hands: Russian expert

Staff Correspondent | Update:


As Bangladesh enters the world of nuclear energy, relevant security issues come to the forefront, says a Russian exert, Petr Topychkanov.

He emphasises that rapid response group would have to be created and kept in place for immediate action upon any possible threat.
Topychkanov, an associate at Russia’s Carnegie Moscow Centre, discussed threats, security measures, economic aspects and other pertinent factors relating to nuclear energy projects, while addressing a seminar on ‘Entering the World of Nuclear Energy: Key Security Issues for Bangladesh’ in Dhaka on Wednesday.
He insisted that international and multilateral cooperation was key to ensuring security of nuclear energy projects in any country.
Dr Topychkanov pointed to the nuclear energy deal between Russian and Iran. Critics had initially said this would give Iran material to produce nuclear weapons. However, he mentioned, when the agreement was made public, they realised there was not even the slightest risk of Iran using the programme for military purposes.
The seminar was organised by the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) at a hotel in the city.
Petr Topychkanov said Bangladesh was not entering the world of nuclear energy only now. The initial work started many years ago, he pointed out.
In fact, the site for the Rooppur nuclear power plant was chosen before the independence of Bangladesh in 1971.
Focussing on the common concern about the threat of nuclear terrorism, Topychkanov said both the materials and technology could pose as a threat in the wrong hands. A rapid response group would have to be created and kept in place for immediate action upon any possible threat, he suggested.
The Russian expert also referred to nuclear disasters in the past. These included the Windscale nuclear accident in the UK in 1957, the Mayak nuclear disaster in USSR the same year, the Saint Laurent nuclear power plant disaster in France in 1964, the 1979 Three Mile Island Accident in the US and the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.
Lessons were learnt from these accidents and awareness was a key issue, he said.
As to the economic risks associated with nuclear energy, he expressed his views that this energy was not competitive with hydrocarbons as yet. There was the high cost of technical equipment as well as construction of the nuclear facilities, he added.
The expert recommended that certain key measures would have to be taken up to increase nuclear energy security. He listed these as development of nuclear fuel cycle centres, global remote monitoring of nuclear material, real-time computerised accounting and control systems in all declared areas of nuclear activity, quantitative analysis of proliferation risks and categorising materials and technology.
He went in saying that the volume and flow of dangerous nuclear materials in circulation needed to be monitored at all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle and data was to be collected on quantities of fissile material in storage facilities. Terrorists could create the ‘dirty bomb’ with radioactive material and so strictest and effective security measures were imperative, the expert observed.
BIPSS president Muniruzzaman said the issue of nuclear energy needed wider discussion among civil society and all concerned.
"The threat from non-state actors needed to be taken into cognizance. Specialised trained forces and special equipment was required to guard nuclear power plant facilities," he said.
Muniruzzaman stressed hat as Bangladesh was making a leap forward in this critically important field, awareness was a key factor before going any further.

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