Henry Sokolski, director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said the danger of nuclear terrorism is growing and the NEST teams are limited in dealing with the threat.
“We are entering a brave new world where nuclear energy for peaceful purposes literally is providing the fuel for terror,” Mr. Sokolski said. “Against this new security sore, NEST teams should be seen as a Band-Aid.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency stated in a staff report May 23 that the agency and China are working behind the scenes to “bolster the country’s security and minimize threats.”
“We have been working with the Chinese authorities over the last 18 months to add a radiological dimension to their existing security plans so that security for the Olympics is as comprehensive as possible,” Anita Nilsson, director of the IAEA’s Office of Nuclear Security, was quoted as saying in the report.
The IAEA is working to integrate planning for a radiological attack into existing security efforts for police, intelligence agencies and bomb squads. The IAEA is working with Chinese authorities on radiation detection, physical protection and emergency response.
“To guard and look after the Games and its visitors - as the Chinese are doing - is a responsible way of acting,” Ms. Nilsson said.
The agency said no specific radiological terrorist-threat information was issued.
The Beijing city government announced Tuesday that it will conduct its first exercise to test responses to a nuclear attack in preparation for the Olympics.
The drill will involve several Chinese agencies including police, fire and environmental responders, Chinese government official Shan Qingsheng told the state-run Xinhua news agency.
The drill will simulate the effects of a radiological bomb set off inside the Olympic stadium.
The dispatch of the nuclear team to China has raised concerns among some counterintelligence officials because of the past compromise of nuclear weapons secrets to China.
The CIA determined that China obtained through espionage details of every deployed nuclear warhead in the U.S. arsenal, and the FBI has failed to identify the source despite investigating for more than a decade.
Computer hard drives from a NEST laptop computer that contained nuclear weapons secrets used to disarm weapons disappeared from a Los Alamos National Laboratory vault in May 2000.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, countering nuclear terrorism was made a high priority for U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, based on intelligence reports that al Qaeda planned to assemble and use a radiological bomb in an attack in the United States.
In 2002, the FBI and NEST conducted joint monitoring of Muslim sites in Washington and five other cities looking for signs of a nuclear material, according to U.S. News & World Report.