Just ahead of the Nuclear Security Summit of 2016, which is scheduled include 50 world leaders visiting Washington, D.C. March 31 to April 1, reports from Brussels indicate that the two suicide bombers involved in the deadly terrorist attack in Brussels this week may have initially targeted a nuclear power plant in Belgium.
The details are still under investigation, but reports from the Dernier Heure newspaper say that the brothers, Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui, planted a hidden security camera in bushes in a residential neighborhood to track the comings and goings of a senior-level scientist, who is the director of the Belgium nuclear research program.
Reports say that film footage of the director's home was part of the evidence seized in a police raid of an apartment of another suspect in the case, Mohammed Bakkali.
Immediately after the Tuesday morning attacks, all workers at the Doel and Tihange nuclear generating stations, except for personnel essential to keep the plants running, were sent home. Reports now indicate that the purpose of this was to minimize the chance that an insider at one or both of the plants might be helping terrorists. The logic stems from the point that the lion's share of theft of nuclear material has involved an insider at a facility that uses radioactive substances, according to media reports.
The current theory is that the terrorists eventually chose “softer” targets than the security-tight nuclear power plants.
Starting Thursday next week, President Barack Obama will be hosting an international summit involving 50 world leaders, who will focus on nuclear security. The event is large enough that the U.S. Secret Service will be closing off certain streets to ensure safety of the gathered leaders.
The summit is not being held to discuss weapons proliferation. Instead, it will focus on terrorism and the threat of radioactive material being used as a threat to public safety.
Experts say that the threat doesn't even have to be scientifically credible. Dropping trace amounts of radioactive material in a water source may have marginal health risks in some instances. But the headlines reporting such an act could trigger widespread fear and panic that could be equally disruptive.
The last Nuclear Security Summit, which took place in 2010, was also held in Washington, D.C.
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