Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 3, 2006

CS Monitor looks at nuclear plant security

Filed under: Infrastructure Protection,Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Christian Beckner on April 3, 2006

The Christian Science Monitor has a good story out tonight that tackles the issue of nuclear plant security, in light of a GAO report that is scheduled to be released on Tuesday:

If the terror attacks of 9/11 taught one lesson, it was that America must make itself less vulnerable to attack by air – perhaps nowhere more urgently than at the nation’s 103 nuclear power plants, given their potential for inflicting massive casualties and destruction if hit by a plane loaded with fuel.

Yet 4-1/2 years later, those plants are little safer from air attack, say critics. And squabbling has set in over what the security standards should be.

Some antiterror experts are concerned the current criteria do not require nuclear plants to be protected against a threat equal to the one posed by the 9/11 hijackers, particularly if they attack again by air. A report to be released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office is also critical of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), finding that it has not increased standards enough to ensure plants are genuinely secure, but only as much as industry officials believed was necessary.

The article goes on to summarize a long-running debate among security experts and the nuclear over what types of threats that nuclear plants need to protect against and the scope of those protective measures; for example, whether a nuclear power plant could withstand a 9/11-type strike from a large airplane without damaging the reactor and fuel rods within the containment dome.

Overall, an interesting story; I’ll append a link to the GAO report when it comes out tomorrow.

Update (4/4): Here’s the relevant GAO report, out today. And here’s a New York Times story on the hearing held today on this subject.

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