Skip to main content

Nuclear Security and Layered Defense

There's a lot of traffic flying around about the video we're seeing coming out of WCBS-TV in New York of guards at the Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant taking a nap in the plant's ready room.

Some other things to note: Exelon, the owner of Peach Bottom, has terminated the Wackenhut contract at the plant, and the guards seen sleeping in the video have been denied access to the plant.

That being said, it's important to note that nuclear power plants have layered defenses. In other words, there's a lot more to the security force than just those guards in the ready room, something that Freakanomics author Stephen J. Dubner found out when he visited Three Mile Island recently:
That said, the security I saw at Three Mile Island was so tight, complex, and thorough that I think it would take a lot more than one sleeping guard to create a vulnerability. They wouldn’t let me photograph anything having to do with their security — the numberless armed guards, physical barriers, electronic monitors, etc. — but I thought they had it backwards: if a potential attacker could see how impenetrable the plant is (at least from a ground attack; an air attack is another matter), he would probably take his business elsewhere in a hurry.
In 2002, EPRI conducted a study on nuclear power plants and air attack at the request of NEI. Click here for the blog post on that issue. For more on the specifics of plant security, click here.

Comments

Anonymous said…
In response to

if a potential attacker could see how impenetrable the plant is (at least from a ground attack; an air attack is another matter), he would probably take his business elsewhere in a hurry.

It's good from a plant security reason for a potential adversary to underestimate, reducing the chance of success.

It's also actually good for national security purposes for the attackers to make an attack on a nuclear power plant. They WILL fail, rather than succeeding elsewhere where the vulnerabilities are greater.

This is employed in many areas. I believe that much of the talk about border and port security is talk, making "evil doers" lower their guard, increasing the odds of interception. Where I don't believe this is true is at chemical plants - they are dang vulnerable.

I think a foiled attack at a nuclear power plant also does little to harm the industry. Yes, the rabid anti folks will crow, but most of the public will look at the events and have a "yawn, yeah keep talking, in 40 years where is the harm from nuclear."

-Matthew B.

Popular posts from this blog

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…