McMaster, CSIS deny terrorist plot
By Marshall Bellamy
The McMaster University nuclear reactor might be a hotbed
of atomic terrorism, as rumours of a dirty bomb plot spread
south of the border.
In an article based on the comments of an anonymous FBI source
over the weekend, The Washington Times reported an Al Qaida
suspect was posing as a student at McMaster in order to gain
access to the school's nuclear reactor and obtain nuclear waste
to build a dirty bomb.
According to Dave Tucker, a health physicist who manages radiation
safety for McMaster, the reactor serves as a research and teaching
tool for the school and the security at the facility is reviewed
periodically by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. "We
have complete confidence in the security and safety measures," he
Tucker pointed out the Al Qaida suspect, Adna Al Shukrijumah,
was not on record at McMaster under his name or any of his
known aliases. He added very few people have unescorted access
to the reactor and everyone with access to the reactor is known
personally to the staff.
When word came to McMaster about the alleged incident involving
the terrorist suspect it was taken seriously, Tucker explained,
adding the police were contacted and an internal investigation
Nicole Courier, spokesperson for the Canadian Security Intelligence
Service, stated the agency is aware of the suspect, but that
she could not comment on specifics of ongoing investigations.
"There was nothing to support or substantiate any of
the claims that the suspect was [at] McMaster - or even [in]
Canada," Courier said.
"If blown up in a confined area, like a subway, [a dirty
bomb] could irradiate a lot people; it would be nasty," said
David Shoesmith, a chemistry professor at Western, adding a
dirty bomb has the potential to be an extremely practical weapon
in the hands of terrorists, particularly suicide bombers.
According to Shoesmith, the challenge for potential nuclear
terrorists is smuggling the nuclear waste out of the facilities,
a daunting task considering radioactive waste tends to be a
dangerous substance to transport. "You can't walk in and
get one without dying," he added.
Under most circumstances, untrained people will have a lot
of difficulty getting a hold of highly radioactive materials
such as nuclear waste from a small reactor, although they could
get hold of less radioactive material, Shoesmith explained.
"I don't know how they would do it, but I would never
underestimate the ingenuity of these guys," Shoesmith