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On Security at Nuclear Power Plants

Earlier this week, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an editorial critical of NRC's efforts at regulating security at America's nuclear power plants. This morning, NEI's Vice President of Communications, Scott Peterson, sent a letter to the editor in response:
Your April 10 editorial “NRC and Nuclear Plant Security” inaccurately described the findings of a Government Accountability Office report that evaluated the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s processes for regulating security at commercial nuclear power plants.

Contrary to your characterization, the GAO’s evaluation concludes that considerable security enhancements have been made at nuclear power plants since 2001. The report states that the NRC’s oversight process “resulted in a DBT (design basis threat) requiring plants to defend against a larger terrorist threat, including a larger number of attackers, a refined and expanded list of weapons, and an increase in the maximum size of a vehicle bomb.”

As your own editorial noted, the nuclear power industry since 2001 has invested more than $1.2 billion of security-specific improvements. The industry has also expanded considerable resources, in response to NRC requirements, to be able to respond to terrorist attacks that exceed these requirements. These measures include onsite response preparations, physical enhancements to plant systems for mitigating the consequences of possible attacks more severe than the DBT and integration with off-site resources.

In addition, the industry is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security to conduct comprehensive reviews that evaluate a nuclear plant’s capability to respond to a wide spectrum of air, land and water threats. The nuclear industry took the initiative to spearhead this effort and work with DHS to develop the process to evaluate all elements of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

The fact that the GAO recommended ways for the NRC to improve its processes for strengthening plant security does not change the reality that dramatic improvements have been made to keep nuclear power plants among the best-defended facilities in the nation’s industrial infrastructure.

Sincerely,

Scott Peterson
Vice President
Nuclear Energy Institute
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Comments

Anonymous said…
I have often thought if other industries and infrastructure operations did even a fraction of the things the nuclear industry has done in the area of security improvements, we wouldn't be having the controversies that we have had recently like the Dubai-ports operation debacle. Think of the vulnerablilities of things like chemical plants, oil refineries, petroleum offloading facilities, railroads, water reservoirs, etc. The recent disruptions in supply caused by the Gulf hurricanes are just a foretaste of what would happen if a major attack were successful against those kinds of targets. In that context, nuclear plants have to be considered among the hardest of "hard" targets out there.
Gunter said…
Greetings,

No one disputes the need for greater security around chemical refineries, water resevoirs, etc., but it is disingenious to suggest these vulnerablities to be reason to keep the security bar artifically low around nuclear power stations.

This is particularly true given the 911 Commission finding that the September 11th attackers had nukes on their target list along with the WTC, the Pentagon and the Capitol.

What the GAO report points out is disturbing. The NRC Commissioners, contrary to recommendations of their own professional security staff as advised by the intelligence community, buckled to NEI lobbying to eliminate weapons in use by our adversaries today (RPG's and 50 caliber sniper rifles) from nuclear power plant defense requirements in a concession to protecting corporate profit margins.

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