Security at the nation's commercial nuclear power plants is vastly stronger than depicted in a report co-written by a graduate research assistant at the University of Texas' Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project that was the subject of the McClatchy Newspapers story “Study: Every U.S. nuke reactor vulnerable to 9/11-style attack” (Aug. 16 and TribLIVE.com).
Commercial nuclear energy facilities pose a very strong deterrent to potential threats, and their robust defenses have been widely recognized over the past decade by an array of independent security and law-enforcement experts.
Under the oversight of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), nuclear power plants responded decisively to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Well-armed, highly trained security forces were expanded by 60 percent, to a total of 9,000 officers; detection and surveillance systems were upgraded; additional physical barriers and bullet-resistant enclosures were installed; weaponry was enhanced; and mock terrorism exercises were strengthened.
All told, the industry has invested more than $2 billion in additional security enhancements over the past decade. As required by the NRC, every facility has in place measures and procedures to respond to large explosions or a jetliner crash, as well as plant-specific programs to repel attacks by land and/or water.
Because nuclear energy facilities are among the most secure and best-protected facilities in the nation's industrial infrastructure, they are well positioned to safely and reliably generate the large amounts of electricity that make them a vital part of the U.S. energy mix.
The writer is senior vice president of communications for the Nuclear Energy Institute (nei.org).