All eyes are on Faisal Shahzad, the man charged with the attempted bombing in Times Square on Saturday.
But perhaps we ought to be concerned a bit less with Mr. Shahzad, a failed terrorist now in custody, and significantly more with Sharif Mobley — a New Jersey native, a former high school wrestler and, until shortly before he moved to Yemen to allegedly join Al Qaeda, a maintenance worker at five nuclear power plants along the East Coast.
Since his arrest by Yemeni security forces in March, American law enforcement officials have taken pains to emphasize that Mr. Mobley’s low security clearance makes it unlikely that he passed crucial details about American nuclear-plant security to Al Qaeda.
But it doesn’t take top-level clearance to know how to set off a nuclear meltdown. All it takes is information on perimeter security — information Mr. Mobley possesses about every plant where he worked.
A nuclear power plant is very different from a coal- or gas-burning plant. If something goes wrong at such a plant, boilers can be quickly shut down, averting disaster.
But there’s no way to quickly shut off a reactor: the heat that builds up inside it is so intense that even if something goes wrong, cooling water must continue to circulate through its systems for days before it is safe.