WASHINGTON—The Nuclear Energy Institute has renewed its contract with Wackenhut Corp.’s Special Operations Group to train and manage elite adversary teams in “force-on-force” security drills that are evaluated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The adversary teams used in these government-required exercises test each nuclear power plant in the nation every three years. NEI first contracted with Wackenhut for this program in 2004. The exercises are used to identify what steps, if any, nuclear power plant security forces can take to improve their ability to repel potential ground-based threats.
The nuclear energy industry is the only private-sector entity that undergoes such government-required force-on-force exercises. Mock adversary exercises for many years have been one of the ways that the industry and the NRC evaluate nuclear plant security.
The use of a dedicated adversary force skilled in the tactics that potential attackers might employ enhances the strong, multi-faceted security programs that the industry has in place to protect nuclear power facilities. Nuclear power plants already are widely acknowledged to be the best-defended facilities in the nation’s industrial infrastructure.
“The adversary team program is one example of how the industry works to achieve excellence and to ensure that all federal security requirements are met,” said Tony Pietrangelo, NEI vice president of regulatory affairs. “Under this program, the adversary force is comprised of a program manager, four directors and 17 adversary team members. The deep experience of the leadership team spans more than 45 years of combined service in Special Forces and Ranger Battalion assignments.”
The Wackenhut contract employees selected for the exercises must meet NRC requirements. The NRC has the authority to determine and ensure that the force-on-force exercises meet the level of attack against which the industry must defend.
The adversary team members are thoroughly trained and must meet rigorous industry and NRC-mandated physical fitness requirements and weapons proficiency standards, including expertise in the use of state-of-the-art laser-based weaponry.
The independent adversary teams participate in approximately 24 three-day, NRC-evaluated exercises each year, such that all nuclear power plants receive an exercise over a three-year period. Members of the two adversary teams must commit for at least two years, but serve no more than three.
The establishment of an independent force with specialized attack skills was an outgrowth of even more stringent security requirements that the NRC put in place after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The NRC expanded the design basis threat, which is the scenario against which the industry’s security forces must defend, and increased requirements for security officer training and qualifications and for the conduct of force-on-force exercises.
In addition to regular NRC inspection of industry security programs at each nuclear power plant, the agency conducts force-on-force exercises to assess and improve, as necessary, the performance of the industry’s security strategy and its implementation.
As added value to this program, the leadership team of the Wackenhut adversary force has conducted more than 20 adversary training courses for the nuclear industry, providing nuclear plants with the ability to train on-site adversary forces to the same standards as the Wackenhut adversary team. Companies use these adversary teams in frequent self-assessments in addition to federally mandated exercises.