Skip to comments.Attack at Pelindaba nuclear facility
Posted on 11/09/2007 4:02:45 PM PST by Lexington Green
A brazen attack by four gunmen on the Pelindaba nuclear facility has left a senior emergency officer seriously injured.
Anton Gerber, Necsa emergency services operational officer spoke to the Pretoria News from his hospital bed hours after the attack.
He was shot in the chest when the gunmen stormed the facility's emergency response control room in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The shooting comes four months after Necsa's newly appointed services general manager Eric Lerata, 43, was gunned down in front of his Montana home after returning from a business trip in France.
Pelindaba is regarded as one of the country's most secure national key points.
It is surrounded by electric fencing, has 24-hour CCTV surveillance, security guards and security controls and checkpoints.
The attack comes as the country prepares to preside over an International Atomic Energy Agency convention on nuclear safety.
The convention is aimed at achieving a high level of global nuclear safety via safety related technical co-operation; establishing and maintaining effective defences in nuclear installations against potential radiological hazards and preventing accidents with radiological consequences.
A visibly shaken Gerber, who was rushed to Eugene Marais hospital, on Thursday said that he was sitting in the control room with his fiancée Ria Meiring when he heard a loud bang.
Meiring, who was working nightshift, is the supervisor of the control room.
Gerber said he kept Meiring company. "I do not like it when she is at work at night and I go with her to keep her company and ensure that she is safe," he said.
Describing the attack Gerber said they were inside the electronically sealed control room when they heard a loud bang.
They then spotted the gunmen coming into the facility's eastern block.
It is believed that the attackers gained access to the building by using a ladder from Pelindaba's fire brigade and scaling a wall.
The men are thought to have forced open a window by pulling out several louvers.
Pushing Meiring underneath a desk, Gerber attacked two of the gunmen as they forced their way into the control room and ran straight for the control panel.
"I did not know what they were going to do. I just kept on hitting them even when one of them attacked me with a screwdriver.
"I knew that if I stopped they would attack Ria or do something to the panel.
"I could not let anything like that happen," he said.
Unbeknownst to Gerber one of the robbers had shot him in the chest as he fought them off.
The bullet narrowly missed his heart breaking a rib before puncturing his lung. Doctors said the bullet missed his spine by 2cm.
Gerber, who at one stage thought he was going to die, said he had been very scared.
"The facility is meant to be safe. There are security guards, electric fences and security control points. These things are not meant to happen," he said.
Necsa spokesperson Chantal Janneker confirmed the attack.
She declined to say how the gunmen had gained access to the facility or whether they had stolen anything.
Janneker said Necsa was conducting an internal investigation into the attack.
Once the police investigation was complete Necsa would divulge what happened, she said.
Later in the afternoon, Pretoria News was phoned by a man identifying himself as a Necsa legal adviser, saying the newspaper will be breaching the National Keypoints Act by publishing the story.
He said that Necsa may seek a court order preventing dissemination of the story.
He claimed that the interview with Gerber was "unethical" as "he was under sedation and thus incoherent" when it was conducted.
Pretoria News sought and was granted permission to interview Gerber, by hospital management, and Gerber himself. While he was obviously in pain, he appeared coherent and made sense throughout the interview.
His recall of the events was sequential and to the point. He also agreed to have his picture taken in his hospital bed.
North West police spokesperson Superintendent Louis Jacobs said that no arrests had been made.
"A case of armed robbery and attempted murder are being investigated," he said.
Routine crime day in South Africa...
And over in Brazil (e.g. Rio) there are 108 people shot dead every night. Every Week. Every Year.
Makes Iraq look like a peaceful beach resort in contrast.
When does the pullout begin of Rio?
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)
* South Africa’s Nuclear-Related Facilities
* 26 km W of Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa, 12/30/1991 @ terraserver.com
Pelindaba Nuclear Research Center
The AEC designed and produced the initial nuclear device at Pelindaba. A second device in late 1979 at Pelindaba but it was suitable only for use in a test. The only criticality test for the HEU core was conducted at Pelindaba. Facilities at the Pelindaba complex also included facilities for machining high explosives (HE) for implosion weapons and for related testing and firing. AEC personnel continued advanced weapons design research at this facility for the remainder of the duration of the nuclear weapons program.
The AEC continues to operate the SAFARI-1 research reactor within the confines of a nuclear license by the Council for Nuclear Safety and with a mainly commercially directed focus. SAFARI-1 is a 20MW Materials Test Reactor of the tank-in-pool type (Oak Ridge design). It is currently being utilised mainly for commercially oriented projects. Institutional cooperation is low but steadily increasing following a decision to actively enhance this aspect of the reactors role in South Africa. This latter role of SAFARI-1 is receiving particular attention while the former serves to offset the costs involved in running the facility.
The SAFARI-1 reactor is supported by a comprehensive infrastructure, including -
* a large inventory of highly enriched uranium
* an MTR fuel manufacturing plant
* extensive hot cell facilities
* an Isotope Centre
* a pipe storage facility for interim storage of spent fuel
* two disposal sites for low and medium-level radioactive waste
* theoretical reactor physics support
* radiochemistry, including radiopharmaceutical research
The two most important commercial products produced by SAFARI-1 are fission Mo-99 and the transmutation doping of silicon. The former application is rapidly growing and will contribute significantly to covering the running costs of SAFARI-1 in the future. In the mid-1990s the Atomic Energy Corporation of South Africa expanded its Mo-99 production capacity at its Safari-1 research reactor to 1000 curies per week. Other commercial applications relate to isotope production, materials modification, neutron activation analysis and the provision of general irradiation services.
In the late 1990s. to carry out its regulatory control function on safeguards of nuclear materials more cost-effectively, the AEC’s vault of highly enriched uranium for the SAFARI-1 reactor, together with a number of other locations elsewhere in the world, were fitted with Remote Monitoring Systems by the IAEA. These systems allow the IAEA to carry out direct surveillance of any nuclear material store through encrypted direct signals to Vienna.
In 1998 the AEC commissioned its interim retrievable dry store at Pelindaba for spent fuel from SAFARI-1 after receiving the necessary safety and safeguards approvals from the Council for Nuclear Safety and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, respectively. As a result, 120 spent fuel elements were transported from the spent fuel racks in the pool of SAFARI-1 research reactor to the retrievable dry store on Thabana.
“And over in Brazil...”
“No Blood for Carnival!”
“Bring the Revellers Home Now!”
“..Gerber attacked two of the gunmen as they forced their way into the control room and ran straight for the control panel.”
Very brave, but very foolish. Bring something more to a gunfight than just courage. Still can’t understand what Gerber was doing in the control room without being on shift duty. Can anyone just walk in and out of the place? Who were the intruders, what did they want and where was security? The intruders ran straight for the control panel. What did they do after they reached it? Too many unanswered question. Was this just a “dry run” of our ROP citizens?
That's reassuring. Glad this facility is monitored by the IAEA.
Pelindaba nuclear facility
Is that on one of Jupiter’s moons?
It doesn't seem plausible that they just turned and ran away when all there was between them and their goal was a man shot in the chest.
OK, I totally freekin’ give. Where the hell is this story from? One guy was shot in front of his Monatana home....but none of the other names ring any kind of bell.
Maybe they couldn’t find the ‘China Syndrome’ button and gave up.
I agree. Something about this story, as told by Gerber, doesn’t pass the smell test. To begin with, he shouldn’t have been there with his fiance. Perhaps she was responsible for the security of her location, and perhaps she was distracted by Gerber’s presence. And, if he was unarmed, as apparently was she, his explanation of being there out of concern for her safety makes little sense. The evildoers gained access to the control panel by breaking out a couple louvers on a window. WTF?
In other words, it was an inside job.
So much for security. If you work there, they'll let you bring in anybody. Sounds like a disgruntled employee brought in some friends to wreak a little havoc.
Pamwe Chete......BTTT !
Unless you have detailed knowledge about how a nuclear power plant works, pressing buttons on the consoles will probably only scram the reactor. Disabling safety systems would require somebody who had detailed knowledge of the electronics of the power plant—and it wouldn’t be done in the control room. There is a way to cause core damage in a reasonably short period of time (an hour or so), but I’m not going to discuss how. Needless to say, it would have to be an inside job and you would need to take complete control of the power plant for longer than 5 minutes to do so.
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