Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bullets Fly at Calvert Cliffs – Yawns Ensue

calvertcliffs Does nobody care?

One might think the NRC would be concerned about this. It's not.

Is Constellation Energy Group, which runs the place? Not really.

And why not?

Granted, it would take a lot more than a few bullets to knock over a reactor…

Well, there’s that. So what happened?

Apparently [actually, no “apparently” about it] officials created a firing range on the secured grounds of the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Lusby, Md., and use it about 200 days a year.

But the shooting was halted earlier this month after someone's off-target shots during SWAT exercises shattered glass and struck a command center near the reactors.

Just think! If the bullets had got any nearer to the reactors, they would have – well, gotten nearer to the reactors. And not only at Calvert Cliffs:

Firing ranges are common on the sprawling grounds of the nation's nuclear facilities, [NRC spokeswoman Holly] Harrington said. At Calvert Cliffs, the range is used about 200 days a year by plant security officers, who are tested regularly by commission auditors.

Should Constellation be careful it doesn’t recur? Sure – an investigation is why the shooting range is shut down for now. Maybe they’ll move it further out – maybe they’ll put up some kind of barrier between range and plant. We’ll see.

But in any event:

"Heck, you could take a gun and shoot right at the reactor from the outside" and still not cause significant damage, [Lt. Steve Jones, commander of criminal investigations for the sheriff's office] said.

He called the incident a "training accident" and said a combination of "target placement [and] shooter error" probably was to blame. Investigators are conducting ballistics tests to determine which officer fired the stray shots.

Regardless, hate to be that officer.


Gotta love cable news.

Bullets flying around some of most toxic materials known to man?



Calvert Cliffs – pocked with bullets but standing tall.


Luke said...

It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it's a nuclear power plant, of course, but it's still very concerning that these security officers, who probably should have known better, would set up a firing range in an inappropriate area with buildings and potentially people downrange.

Nuclear power reactors clearly aren't dangerous at all. But inappropriate handling of firearms can certainly be.

Alex Brown said...

I work at a nuclear plant and you can hear gunfire several times a week. OF course the firing here is out in the woods and not near anybody.

Paul said...

But it wouldn't have been pretty if the bullet(s) had impacted in the substation ...

Reminds me of when I was Weapons Officer on a DDG-2 class destroyer during the summer of 1989. We didn't go on deployment with our battle group because engineering failed OPPE twice, so we became the duty ship for training naval gunfire support spotters for 12 weeks. As weapons officer, my position was on the bridge wing during gunnery exercises, listening to the internal communications between CIC, gunplot, etc. Before the CO would give "batteries released" for each fire mission, I had to use the pelorus to verify that the firing bearing was actually within the range boundaries on the southern end of San Clemente Island.

One day while we were dutifully performing fire missions for the spotters-in-training on the beach, a FF-1052 class frigate steamed up and asked us and range control if they could get some fire missions in order to practice for their upcoming annual gunnery exercise. Well, the very first 5" round they fired landed outside the range boundaries, and range control basically told them to "Go Home".

Mark Flanagan said...

I think we can grant that the big problem here is any person standing between range and plant as a bullet goes off-course. Given the prevalence of these ranges, I expect most of the kinks have been worked out. What Constellation learns from this mishap will likely benefit other plant-based ranges around the country.