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A Critical Investigation into Insider Threat Mitigation (ITM) in the Nuclear Energy Sectors of Belgium, the UK and the USA.

Project Description

Project reference number: GSBS-2019-126

The need for ITM in nuclear energy was recognised by INFCIRC/908 A Joint Statement on Mitigating Insider Threat (IAEA 2017). Subsequently, the Inaugural ITM International Conference, Brussels, 12-14 March, 2019, was co-hosted by the FANC and NNSA of US DoE as a prelude the IAEA’s International Conference in 2020. GCU’s People Security and Cyber Security expertise was welcomed in Brussels and further research encouraged.

Today’s turbulent socio-economic and geo-political environment probably presents the greatest threat to national security since WW2. Countries are vulnerable to attacks on their national critical infrastructure including: government, health, defence, police, transport, finance, ICT, water, food, and energy. The latter being the focus of this study, as an attack on an energy plant would impact on all infrastructure sectors. Given the wide range of types of energy generators and the environmental desire to reduce dependence on fossil fuels this proposal will concentrate on the nuclear energy sector, particularly given a potential external attack could be catastrophic for a wide geographical area if there are any radioactive leaks. However, such attacks by e.g. extremists are unlikely given the external, physical security and the internal complexity of such plants. A more probable threat comes from within – the knowledgeable Insider Threat. These could include an accidental data breach; sabotage by a disgruntled employee decreasing or stopping production resulting in a loss of power; inappropriate access; fraud; and ultimately social engineering or radicalisation of employees to cause significant harm to a plant, which in turn can reduce the population’s confidence in nuclear power.
The aim of this project is to conduct a cross-country comparative analysis assessing the robustness of their respective ITM strategies, so findings can be shared with these three friendly powers, as well as with the wider IAEA membership enhancing the security, and ultimately, safety of nuclear power.

Additional information for reviewers: This proposal is supported by a range of national and international agencies including: CPNI (UK Centre for Protection of the National Infrastructure; Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) and National Nuclear Security Agency of the US Department of Energy all of which contribute to the work of the International Atomic Energy Authority, an autonomous agency within the United Nations System. Other support comes from the National Insider Threat Task Force (NITTF) for all US government departments, and Interpol

Supervisor Research Profiles

Director of Studies: Professor Rona S Beattie
GCU Research Online URL

2nd Supervisor: Dr Jackie Riley
GCU Research Online URL:

This project is available as a 3 years full-time PhD study programme with expected start date of 1 October 2019

Candidates are encouraged to contact the research supervisors for the project before applying.

How to Apply

To apply for this project, use the following link to access the online application form, as well as further information on how to apply:

Applicants shortlisted for the PhD project will be contacted for an interview within four weeks from the closing date.

Please send any other enquires regarding your application to:

Funding Notes

Exceptional candidates will be put forward for the scholarship competition. The Scholarship packages available include fully funded studentships and fees only scholarships. The fully funded studentships are worth £19,300 per year for 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress. They cover payment of tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and an annual stipend of £14,800.

For further details on funding see View Website

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