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U.S., Britain to stage cyberattack test on nuclear plant, exchange nuclear waste

WASHINGTON, March 31 (UPI) — The United States and Britain will collaborate on an emergency preparedness exercise this year that will stage a mock cyberattack on a nuclear power plant in an effort to test infrastructure stability and readiness for such a strike, sources said Thursday.

Government sources reportedly confirmed the forthcoming drill as British Prime Minister David Cameron prepared to travel to Washington, D.C., for the Nuclear Security Summit, which began Thursday.

It wasn’t revealed, though, exactly when the drill will be performed, but the exercise’s purpose is to test security preparedness and assess the vulnerability of nuclear power plants to such an attack.

“It gives us the ability to test these systems, and make sure that we learn any lessons,” one source said.

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The cyberattack will be similar, the sources added, to a hacking drill performed last year against major banking systems, Britain’s The Guardian reported Thursday. Cameron is expected to announce the joint test after he arrives at the two-day summit, which concludes Friday.

During the summit on Friday, Cameron is also expected to announce an agreement to send a shipment of nuclear waste from the Britain to the United States. In exchange, U.S. nuclear officials will send spent uranium to Europe, which officials say will be used to help diagnose certain forms of cancer.

More than 1,500 pounds of radioactive waste will be sent to storage caches in the United States from the Dounreay facility in Scotland, sources said, because U.S. facilities have more room to store it and better resources to process it.

President Barack Obama prepares to shake hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a meeting at the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Pool Photo by Dennis Brack/UPI

It is believed to be the largest shipment of radioactive waste of any kind in history.

Some anti-nuclear advocates, though, worry the shipment poses an unacceptable risk.

“Nuclear waste should be dealt with as close to where it is produced as possible rather than risking transporting it in ships or planes,” Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said. “The consequences of an accident during transit would be horrific.”

“Only the nuclear industry could think it was a good idea to risk swapping large quantities of one of the most dangerous materials on the planet across the Atlantic,” Dixon added. “Europe is littered with plenty of highly radioactive waste from both reactors and weapons, there cannot possibly be a need to be importing any more from the US, or for us to be sending ours to them.”

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Government leaders, nonetheless, will reportedly hail the agreement as a “landmark deal.”

“It’s a win-win: we get rid of waste, and we get back something that helps us to fight cancer,” one source told The Guardian.

President Barack Obama met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Thursday, the first day of the summit, to discuss nuclear security and potential threats posed by North Korea.

Friends of the Earth U.S. officials and advocates demonstrated against Japan’s ongoing and future use of coal in Washington, D.C., during the security summit Thursday.

Obama launched the semiannual Nuclear Security Summit in 2010, which seeks to enhance and help bolster many nations’ domestic measures against nuclear threats. The White House said it is part of Obama’s overall nuclear policy, which he first outlined in 2009.

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