Security experts gather in Brussels to discuss insider threats in nuclear sector

Security experts from 65 countries are meeting in Brussels this week to discuss the fight against “insider threats”, where a person harms an organisation from within. The issue is one of the main threats to the nuclear sector.

The three-day symposium will focus on new risks and developments such as the proliferation of artificial intelligence. The impact of the war in Ukraine and in the Middle East will also be discussed.

“We live in a world where nuclear activities are constantly increasing,” Belgian Interior minister Annelies Verlinden said in her opening speech. “That means we have to protect the population and the environment. It is our duty to be ahead of all possible threats. If we are not well prepared, that threat could become a reality.”

A recent example of an insider threat in Belgium is the case of Jürgen Conings, a soldier who stole weapons from the Leopoldsburg barracks in May 2021, leading to a large-scale search operation. Conings, who was suspected of far-right extremism, was found dead shortly after.

Insider threats are not always deliberate, or may be the result of a third party misusing an employee’s authorised access. In 2014, the Doel 4 nuclear reactor was shut down following an act of sabotage. The reactor was out of operation for more than four months, costing almost 100 million euros and reducing electricity generating capacity.

Among the speakers at the symposium are US National Nuclear Security Administration chief Jill Hruby and Frank Hardeman and Rony Dresselae of Belgium’s Federal Agency for Nuclear Control.

Since the first symposium in 2019, participating countries have developed exercises, training and practical tools to strengthen their nuclear security regimes. 


The Doel nuclear power plant in East Flanders © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM

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