There is no indication of the IS planning to acquire nuclear material, the US has said ahead of the Nuclear Security Summit during which world leaders are expected to discuss ways and means to prevent terrorists from obtaining and using atomic weapons.
“We don’t have any indications that it was part of a broader planning to acquire nuclear materials, and we don’t have any information that a broader plot exists,” said Laura Holgate, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for WMD Terrorism and Threat Reduction.
The US has seen reports about Brussels attack terrorists targeting nuclear facilities as part of a broader plot. The video footage is of concern and suggests that there is at least some interest by the Islamic State, she said.
“We’ve been working closely with Belgium over the years on nuclear security issues. We’ve worked with them to reduce the amount of highly enriched uranium at that particular site where that manager worked,” Holgate said.
“There’s extensive cooperation between our regulatory bodies that includes discussions of nuclear security and related issues. And we stand ready to help the Belgians in any way should they require or wish to cooperate more deeply with us on these issues,” she said.
According to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes the nuclear security summit provides an opportunity both to look at securing nuclear materials so that terrorists are not able to acquire them because of security arrangements.
“And also how we are also targeting ISIL and countering IS more broadly. So, again, both looking at denying access to the most dangerous materials and going on offense against IS broadly.
“We’ve seen over the year’s different terrorist organisations have ambitions related to acquiring nuclear materials. We’ve seen that in their public statements. We’ve seen that in different cases in terms of their monitoring of nuclear facilities,” he said.
The Nuclear Security Summit aims to bring countries up to a high standard of nuclear security, whether that’s through information-sharing, or centers of excellence, or ratification and implementation of relevant treaties.
“We want to be essentially raising the global norm related to nuclear security so that it’s difficult for anybody to have any access to those materials,” he said.
“At the same time, we are engaged in a counter-IS campaign and nearly all of the countries who will be participating at the summit are part of that effort in one way or another. So we’ll have the opportunity both to address the security of materials and to address the counter-IS effort more broadly,” Rhodes said.
Holgate reiterated that at this point, the US doesn’t have explicit indications that ISIL is looking to achieve either type of a nuclear or a radiological capability.