WASHINGTON—Nuclear plant security officers, most of whom have prior military, law enforcement or industrial security experience, are continually trained professionals with high levels of expertise and job satisfaction, a new industry security report reveals.
Of the more than 5,000 trained professionals who comprise the industry security forces, about 67 percent have prior military, law enforcement or industrial security experience. The average annual salary is $35,000, and the retention rate of security personnel is 90 percent. On average, a nuclear security officer receives 270 hours of training prior to being deployed, and spends about 60 hours annually completing requalification training, with about 30 hours spent on anti-terrorist tactical training exercises, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute's (NEI) new report, "Implications of Security Force Federalization on Nuclear Power Plant Security."
The report concludes that, because of the high caliber of existing security forces and because a power plant's management should be unified across operational and security functions, legislative proposals to federalize nuclear security forces offer no advantages. To the contrary, federalization of security officers could complicate responses to acts of terrorism or sabotage.
However, the report does call for federal legislation that would grant a nuclear plant's security forces the authority to use deadly force, if necessary, to protect the plant, and that would provide the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with the authority to permit security forces to carry and use weapons, like automatic rifles and handguns, that are commensurate with the plant's responsibilities to meet regulatory security requirements.
"No other private industrial facilities have the combination of robust physical protection, well-trained and armed security forces and emergency response capability that is found at every nuclear power plant in the United States," the report states. "Force effectiveness depends upon personal qualities and actions that are prescribed by standards, regulations or policies essentially independent of the officer's federal or private status. Based on established effectiveness criteria, there is no clear advantage to a federal security force. But there are significant disadvantages."
The report warns that federalization legislation championed by Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada and Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts would compel the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to add 5,000 employees (tripling the agency's size) and create dual chains of authority, one for security and the other for plant operations. Doing so would decentralize authority and conceivably slow down the decision-making process for emergency responses.
Federalization of security officers also would pose other problems for effectively managing a plant. For example, plant management must achieve a balance between physical security features-such as barriers and locked access doors-and necessary access to plant equipment and systems. Separate lines of authority, acting under separate sets of regulations covering the federal government and the private sector, could create institutionalized conflicts.
The report also concludes that federalization would have a negative impact on the quality of the plant security forces. Due to restrictions imposed by federal law and /or local laws associated with pension credits, many of the security officers could not serve as federal employees without losing some of those benefits.
"They will choose to leave this service and seek different private employment," the report warns.
In addition, the hiring, training and management of a new work force could result in a "transition period of diminished efficiency and security protection."
In a letter sent last November to Sen. Reid, who has denigrated nuclear security personnel as "rent-a-cops," NRC Chairman Richard Meserve said the proposal to federalize nuclear security forces addresses "a non-existent problem."
"Current security forces at sensitive NRC [regulated] nuclear facilities are well-trained, well-paid and have high retention rates," Meserve said. "There have been no failures in nuclear plant security of this type that has plagued the commercial airline industry and thus no need for such radical change."
A direct link to the industry study is available on the home page of NEI's web site at http://www.nei.org . Nuclear power plants operate in 31 states providing electricity to one of every five homes and businesses in the nation.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at http://www.nei.org.