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Nuclear risk could be an inside job

Author: Charles D. Ferguson, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Science and Technology
January 9, 2007
The Sydney Morning Herald


The comment by the Prime Minister, John Howard, in November about nuclear energy as “one weapon in the armoury” in the fight against climate change now has an unfortunate ring to it in light of the recent news that a home-grown terrorist group allegedly planned to attack the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor with rocket launchers from an Australian armoury.

The good news is that the rockets would not have done much, if any, significant damage to the reactor. The bad news is that the emerging details of the case point to the harm that insiders can perpetrate. If Australia moves forward with ambitious plans—as proposed in the controversial Switkowski report—to build 25 nuclear power reactors by 2050, it should take adequate precautions to guard against external and internal security threats.

First, let’s look at the threat from the stolen army rockets. The rockets are 66-millimetre light shoulder-fired anti-armour weapons. The rocket’s warhead can penetrate up to 350 millimetres of tank armour. The weapon’s maximum effective range is about 220 metres against moving targets and about 300 metres against stationary targets.

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