Archive for Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Nuclear reactor security outlined

Military to defend against attacks; plants must control radiation

January 30, 2007


— Making nuclear power plants crash-proof to an airliner attack by terrorists is impracticable and it's up to the military to avert such an assault, the government said Monday.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in a revised security policy, directed nuclear plant operators to focus on preventing radiation from escaping in case of such an attack and to improve evacuation plans to protect public health and safety.

"The active protection against airborne threats is addressed by other federal organizations, including the military," the NRC said in a statement.

The agency rejected calls by some nuclear watchdog groups that the government establish firm no-fly zones near reactors or that plant operators build "lattice-like" barriers to protect reactors, or be required to have anti-aircraft weapons on site to shoot down an incoming plane.

The NRC, in a summary of the mostly secret security plan, said such proposals were examined, but that it was concluded the "active protection" against an airborne threat rests with organizations such as the military or the Federal Aviation Administration.

It said that various mitigation strategies required of plant operators - such as radiation protection measures and evacuation plans - "are sufficient to ensure adequate protection of the public health and safety" in case of an airborne attack.

The NRC unanimously approved the plan, which has been the subject of internal discussions for 15 months, in a 5-0 vote at a brief meeting without discussion.

"Nuclear power plants are inherently robust structures that our studies show provide adequate protection in a hypothetical attack by an airplane," NRC Chairman Dale Klein said in a statement, adding that plant operators already must be able to manage large fires or explosions, no matter the cause.

Klein called the new rule "only one piece" of an effort to enhance reactor security and said the NRC would continue to examine and discuss the issue of airborne threats and take additional actions if found to be necessary.

The defense plan, formally known as the Design Basis Threat, spells out what type of attack force the government believes might target a commercial power reactor and what its operator must be capable of defending against.

While details are sketchy because of security concerns, the plan requires defense against a relatively small force, perhaps no more than a half-dozen attackers, but that they could come from multiple directions, including by water, and could include suicide teams.

The plan, which formally approves many of the procedures that have long been in place, reflects the increased concerns raised by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It also includes measures to address cyber attacks, according to the NRC.


Ken Lassman 10 years, 6 months ago

Sure seems that the nuclear lobby has been beating the "build nukes" tom-toms a lot lately. Maybe they think that folks will think it's inevitable, if they beat loud and long enough?

It seems to me that nuclear power was born, developed, and is maintained through massive amounts of government subsidies. This will not change if it returns as a newly contributing part of the energy equation of our fine country. By subsidies, I'm talking specifically about the untold billions of dollars underwritten by the feds in the form of research dollars to design and develop the plants, very low caps on the insurance costs in the event of an accident, at which point the taxpayer pays the tab, subsidized fuel enrichment, transport, reprocessing costs, plus waste and spent fuel storage--short and long term, to say nothing of the upcoming decommissioning costs of scores of aging nuclear power plants.

On top of that, you now have security risks that have been greatly heightened due to terrorist risks, who must be sorely tempted to convert a power plant into a dirty bomb by flying a jet not into a containment dome, which might actually survive, but the spent fuel rod storage pools that lay beside most if not all plants.

My main concern about this aspect is that the only way to prevent such an attack if nukes proliferate across the countyside is to create an even more powerful security net, which, in my estimation would look an awful lot like a police state. Is this the kind of centralized power future you were really wanting? It's not in my list of hopes and dreams for my grandchildren. Judging from this article, that's the direction they are heading.

Finally, my recollection of Kepco, KG&E and the others who financed Wolf Creek is that they have been practically peeing their pants trying to pawn off the increased rates they've had to pay to finance the sucker, working round the clock to pass the rates to Westar customers who did not sign up for the nuke in the first place, but through some really fancy footwork, ended up footing a big part of the bill anyway. Do you really trust that consortium? I sure don't. They are creating a tax abatement zone around Wolf Creek to create yet another subsidy for another plant, to lure those big boys into our back yards again...

So when I hear "nukes" as a solution, I look around at my wallet to see who's already got their hands in it, and say 'no, thanks.'

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