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NEI Testifies in House on Safety and Security at Nuclear Plants

NEI Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer Marvin Fertel just testified before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations. Here is an overview of what he had to say:

Growing electricity demand and concern over energy security and climate change has led to a resurgence of interest in nuclear energy. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, signed into law by President Bush and passed with broad bipartisan support in both branches of Congress, has added to an already increasing interest in the construction of new nuclear plants.

Clearly, the nation’s nuclear power plants are more secure today than they were before the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks. America’s commercial nuclear power plants have long been considered the most secure facilities in our nation’s critical infrastructure. Since 2001, the nuclear energy industry has made these facilities even more secure. Over the past four years, the NRC elevated nuclear facility security requirements numerous times by issuing orders and other formal requirements, and the agency is in the process of codifying additional requirements in rulemakings. The industry has invested more than $1.2 billion in security improvements at nuclear plant sites and has increased the number of specially trained, well-armed security forces by more than 60 percent.

Since I last testified before this subcommittee in 2004, the industry has taken these broad actions to enhance security for our workers and our neighbors in the communities in which we operate nuclear power plants:

• implemented NRC-approved security plans for each nuclear power plant
• completed physical security improvements required by the NRC
• conducted hundreds of force-on-force security exercises at 64 plants, including NRC-observed and -supervised force-on-force drills at 24 plant sites
• implementing enhanced security provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, in coordination with the NRC
• completed more than 20 Department of Homeland Security comprehensive reviews of nuclear power plants.

The nuclear energy industry recognizes that the spectrum of possible threats facing a nation can be larger than the design basis threat for a nuclear power plant. The design basis threat (DBT) defines the abilities of a potential attacking force against which the industry’s security strategy must succeed. The industry has been a private-sector leader, working under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, to assess a broader spectrum of threats to the nation’s critical infrastructure. These assessments will help DHS decide how best to allocate federal and state resources to supplement private security forces at each plant site. Security at nuclear power plants provides a solid basis from which this more integrated federal, state, local and private response can be built. When the NRC elevated the DBT for nuclear power plants, it appropriately considered both the threats facing our nation, and the policy, legal and practical limitations on a private entity in facing these threats.
Visit NEI's Web site to read the written testimony.

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Gunter said…
In fact, House Subcommitte Chairman Christopher Shays and the Government Accountability Office concluded that contrary to its own staff recommendations and intelligence reports, the Commission after consulting with NEI dropped two specific weapons in use by adversaries today or legally possessible (rocket propelled grenades and 50 caliber rifles using armoring piercing rounds) from it revised Design Basis Threat criteria. The size of truck bombs potentially used against nuclear power stations was downsized as well.

The GAO and Congressman Shays concluded that by all appearances the Commission based its decisions to downsize security regulations on industry financial concerns.
Paul Primavera said…
Hmmmm....and were those weapons also dropped from the DBT for the 4000 chemical plants in the US, an attack against any of which can reproduce the Bhopal India disaster many fold? Or do chemical plants even have a DBT? BTW, are rocket propelled gernades really legally possessable, or is this a fiction? Maybe the right solution is the 2nd Admendment to the US Constitution - allow all nuclear power plant workers to arm themselves, but you would oppose the 2nd Admendment in the same way that you oppose nuclear power. (Electronic posts are a poor way of conveying sarcasm, but you get the idea.)
Paul Primavera said…
For the NRC's testimony on Safety and Security at Nuclear Plants in the House of Representatives, please see:

Statement Submitted by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission to the Committee on Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations United States House of Representatives
gunter said…
Let's be clear, Mr. Primavera.

I have no dispute with you et al that US chemical facilities are vulnerable and to the same weaponry that was dropped from NRC's revised DBT as disclosed by GAO.

That said, the 911 Commission Report is explicit in stating that the original target sets for al Qaeda included two nuclear power stations along with WTC, Pentagon, the Captiol, White House and tallest building on West Coast.

So your attempt to deflect the identified target value of nuclear power stations is baseless.

RPGs are widely available on the black market and in use against us in Irag and Afghanistan, today. The testimony of the GAO revealed that RPGs are very easily smuggled into the US. The 50 caliber rifles are legally available and can be loaded with armor piercing ammunition.

NRC staff recommendations to include these weapons in with the revised DBT adversary characteristics was amply supported by US intelligence.

The reason that the Commission dropped these weapons as well as downsized potential truck bombs from the DBT is because NEI whined about how expensive it would be to protect against.

It was also explained at the hearing that in fact projectile nets are not even that big of an expense.

But apparently NEI views it as the slippery slope of the rising capital costs of security posed by the reality of global arms trade today.

Some of those chickens from US support of jihad against the Soviets apparently coming home to roost, potentially including TOW missiles ala Ollie North's Iran-Contra arms deals. Mow there's a "patriot" for you.
Paul Primavera said…
Paul Gunter,

We at the Know_Nukes message board already had this discussion with your lackey Norm Cohen of Unplug Salem, and Karl Johanson, Maul Mcamuk, Jim Hoerner and others thoroughly debunked all your allegations.

First of all, no truck bomb can get anywhere near close enough to any plant vital structure to do any damage. The zone of security protection between the Owner Controlled Area, the Protected Area and any Vital Area includes far too many barriers to make truck bombs a feasible weapon for terrorist to use.

Secondly, RPGs cannot penetrate steel re-inforced concrete buildings that comprise vital area structures such as EDG Building, Control Building, SFP Building at a PWR, BWR Reactor Building or PWR Containment Building or PWR Auxiliary Building (I will concede that if aimed right an RPG MAY penetrate the steel structure on top of a BWR Reactor Building, but it won't reach either reactor or SFP). Now Mauk Mcamuk at Know_Nukes explains this a lot more cogently than I using the much more powerful Milan anti-tank
missile as an example; so with Eric's and your forgiveness, let me quote him:

< >

A while back, Norm posted asking about the use of a Milan anti-tank
missile (a choice bit of ordinance, to be sure) to attack an SFP.

I posted extensively in an effort to demonstrate the difficulty wall
breaching poses to the .mil.

Blwing a hole through even "lightweight" walls is astonishingly
difficult. The thickness and extreme re-inforcement of an SFP wall
magnifies that difficulty enormously. Add in the fact that the wall
is under loading from the non-attacked side, and I would feel
comfortable stating that anything that could credibly open a
significant breech in a SFP wall would have to be HUGE, like 155MM
artillery (repeat shots) or bunker busting bombs.

This is stuff that no terrorist is likely to EVER get their hands on,
and if they by some miracle did, they would not be so foolish as to
expend it upon such a difficult target as a nuclear power plant.

Indeed, we could HOPE that they would shoot at a nuclear power plant,
rather than at a far softer and more hurtful target, such as a
school, church, sports arena, etc.

Assuming the "apples fall up" some day, the only issue is keeping the
racked spent fuel cooler than zirc ignition temperatures, or, keeping
air out of them.

A single monitor can deliver 1000+ gallons of water per minute. If
the empty pool has heated to 300C, all that water will be turning to
steam. 8000 pounds of steam per hour is going to carry away a goodly
bit of heat.

The pool could be dry as a bone, as long as the cooling steam plume
is being carried away, we're fine.

I will also point out, as I did before, that nuclear power plants
have access to heatsinks and plumbing to generate over a dozen
gigawatts of cooling. The few megawatts in the SFP will pose little

Oh, and someone wondered how you could attach a monitor to the smooth
conrete floor?

Two issues here:

1) A water cannon can easily reach a couple of hundred feet. It
would be quite feasible to use a truck-mounted monitor outside and
simply blast the stream through a door, hole, whatever.

2) If you DO want to set up a monitor near the pool edge for whatever
reason, you lug it in and bring a power hammer. BANG, BANG, BANG,
BANG! It's secured. Would take maybe 20 seconds.

Trust me. Non-issue.
Paul Primavera said…
Paul Gunter,

Karl Johanson took a different tactic, a different viewpoint than Mauk did on this issue at Know_Nukes, but their conclusions were the same:

[Norm Cohen of Unplug Salem]

with a Milan 3 can penetrate armour that is as thick as 108 centimetres, or 40 inches, or 3 ½ feet, at a distance of 2 kilometres, or 1.25 miles. This could be used to attack Oyster Creek from Route 9.

[Karl Johanson of Canada]

Yes, and we could then all be glad the missile(s) weren't used on fossil
fuel storage or transportation tanks in cities, instead. We can be glad they
weren't used on a hydro dam either.

The missile might make it through the containment building, assuming it's
aimed right, assuming the missile didn't fail, assuming it hit the round
containment building fairly strait on (although the warhead had a trajectory
change detonation system as well, but a glancing blow wouldn't penetrate as
much). The warhead is designed to get through armour and spray shrapnel
around the inside of the tank, killing the occupants. Assuming the missile
gets through the containment building's non-homogeneous concrete and through
the rebar (some of which is as thick as your arm), then there's the steel
liner. Assuming multiple missiles, and assuming someone who can hit the same
point several times, then some shrapnel might fly around inside the
containment building. Bad for anyone near the point of impact. The core
would be protected from this shrapnel by the steel reinforced concrete
bioshield. If someone shoots a few more missiles through the hole full of
twisted rebar (from two kilometres away they might manage that if they fire
a few dozen missiles if they're a good shot) they might make a hole in the
bioshield. From there, they might then try to fire through the hole in the
containment building and through the hole in the bioshield, to try to hit
the rounded pressure vessel with 6 inches of steel and a stainless steel

If all that happens and the pressure vessel is breached, we'd still have an
accident less significant than Chernobyl.
Paul Primavera said…
Paul Gunter,

Again and again your claims of security weaknesses at commercial nuclear power plants end up being debunked. Yet the very real and present danger of an RPG or Milan anti-tank missile attack on the Tappen Zee or Golden Gate or George Washington Bridges during rush hour is ignored by people like you. Yes, this same danger is much more likely to occur at bridges, dams, petroleum depots, LNG tankers at harbor, airplanes, trains carrying toxic chemicals that never ever decay away, shopping malls, schools, etc., than at any commercial nuclear power plant. In fact, we in the nuclear industry are prepared for such attacks. Yet you would have us waste precious vital resources because of your support of the flawed Precautionary Principle and thereby endanger the lives of millions which could otherwise be saved by devoting such resources to preventing chemical disasters.

Sir, may I respectfully state that your concerns are disingenuous at bets.
Paul Primavera said…
Paul Gunter,

Perhaps in one of my previous posts I should not have written "your lackey Norm Cohen of Unplug Salem". I really respect and admire Norm's principledness (is that a word?). He is a good man. Whenever I have had a question and telephoned him, he has ALWAYS been courteous to me and helpful. I don't agree with the propaganda you have fed him, nor (of course) his anti-nuclearism, but he does have his heart (if not his policy on nukes) in the right place. So my sincere apologies to Norm (but I am still a pro-nuke SOB).
Paul Primavera said…
Here is the list (with links) of the testimonies before the House Committee on Government Reform - "Nuclear Security: Has the NRC Strengthened Facility Standards Since 9/11?"

The opening statement of Rep. Christopher Shays may be found at:

The Government Accountability Office testimony to this committee may be found at:


The testimony of the US NRC Chairman Nils Diaz may be found at:


The testimony of Martin Fertel of NEI before this committee may be found at:


The testimony of Chris Crane, President and CNO of Exelon, before this committee may be found at:

The testimony of the Connecticut Attorney General before this committee may be found at:

The testimony of Danielle Brian of POGO before this committee may be found at:

The CT Attorney General's testimony and POGO's statement are both anti-nuclear (no surprise there). I am also surprised at Christopher Shay's opening statement. He sounds more like a Hillary Clinton Democrat than a Republican.
gunter said…
This is another clear example of why we need to abandon nuclear power.

The industry is unwilling to bear the full cost of upgrading security around target rich nuclear power stations.

Industry and its federal promoters should not be allowed to build new nuclear power stations in light of the unreasonable costs of guarding nuclear power from catastrophy.

Distributed renewable energy generation is how we hardened our national energy policy.

No Nukes / Go Solar
Paul Primavera said…
Paul Gunter,

(1) All facilities and industries are potential terrorist targets, including dams, bridges, schools, shopping malls, chemical factories, petroleum refineries and depots, LNG tankers, railroad trains carrying toxic materials, chlorine or ammonia production facilities, etc. ad nauseam. Of all these possible targets, terrorists attack the undefended (e.g., the school in Russia, the hotels in Indonesia or Saudi Arabia, the subways in London or Tokyo, the WTC Towers, etc.). They do NOT attack well-defended targets even though they are suicidal. The reason why is that they want to kill as many innocent women and children as possible, and they can't do that by trying to attack a hardened facility such as a commercial US nuclear power plant.

(2) Solar energy is infeasible for baseload power. But I again offer you:

Here you can buy your own solar PV array:

The advertisement on this web page also states:

"If you are going to buy solar panels, compare them by Dollars per Watt. Used solar panels are a bargain in every way. The old ARCO panel shown here has been in the sun for over 20 years, and produces only 10% less power than when it was brand new!"

I caution you, however, that you'll get no electrical power between sunset and sunrise. But there's always wind power:

With both of these you just MIGHT be without electricity for only 30 to 40 days total per year, but those will on the deep cold days of winter or on the wind-still hot nights of summer.

(3) Personally, I prefer the reliability of my coal and nuclear provided electricity 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. So does my wife and our baby boy and little girl. And so do most Americans.

(4) Emasculating our industrial, technological strength just because terrorists might attack is a surrender to fear. I say even IF on the remote chance terrorists DO attack, THEN we should make ever more use of nuclear energy. Why? Because we are AMERICANS. We are GREAT. And we must NEVER EVER cave in to Islamic fascism or any other terrorist groups, including our own home-grown Timothy McVeighs. Victory is obtained by recognizing, confronting and overcoming our own fear. With energy independence we can assure our Republic of another 200 years of freedom and prosperity.

Doesn't it make you PROUD to be an American? It does me!
Brian Mays said…
Mr. Gunter,

How clearly you reveal your real purpose. I'm actually quite surprised, since you tend to play your hand a little closer to the chest -- pretending to care about issues such as security and safety, when to you they are only a means to an end.

It should be obvious to anyone reading your last comment what your real game is: to use fear to drive up the cost of nuclear power to the point that it becomes uneconomical, regardless of practical considerations and regardless of any relative comparison of level of threat versus level of security (irrational fear does not need to consider any of these things). That is your sole purpose, and as such, I cannot see how you and NIRS have anything of value to add to this discussion, since nothing that is done will ever be enough to satisfy you until your real goal is met -- which is not security and safety.

For example, you freely bring up that "the 911 Commission Report is explicit in stating that the original target sets for al Qaeda included two nuclear power stations along with WTC, Pentagon, ..." (I don't know where you get the number two from, but that is beside the point). Sounds very scary, but to be fair, you fail to mention that, in every place that the report mentions plans to target a nuclear plant, these plans are always dismissed by the terrorists as being impractical or too difficult -- and this is before security at these plants was enhanced after 9/11. Thus, all I can conclude is that your rhetoric is simply a collection of smoke and mirrors, designed to frighten, confuse, and mislead, but certainly not grounded in what we know or what is realistic.

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