WASHINGTON—The nuclear energy industry expects to meet new federal security requirements—further strengthening the robust defenses at vital nuclear power plants—by the government’s Oct. 29 deadline, an industry leader told a congressional panel today.
“Each nuclear power plant is on schedule to meet the requirements of the most recent Nuclear Regulatory Commission security orders by the October 29 deadline,” Marvin Fertel, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s chief nuclear officer, told the House Committee on Government Reform’s National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations Subcommittee.
The security enhancements will continue to make nuclear power plants “a model for industrial security in America” and solidify their position as the nation’s best-defended industrial facilities, Fertel said.
“Our defenses were exceptional prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and they are even better today. It is highly unlikely that attackers could successfully breach security at a nuclear power plant and even more unlikely they could produce a release of radiation that would endanger the residents near the plant,” he said.
With oversight from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the industry constantly reviews and re-evaluates its security programs to further strengthen its robust defenses, Fertel said.
He cautioned, however, that on the heels of the latest security enhancements, there should be a period of “regulatory stability” so the industry can integrate the new security programs fully into plant operations.
“The NRC has recognized that the commercial nuclear energy industry has reached the maximum level of security enhancements that can be expected from a private entity. Further increases to nuclear plant security requirements could have serious policy implications,” he said.
Fertel detailed for members of Congress the many steps that the industry has taken over the past three years to strengthen security, including the recent formation of the Nuclear Sector Coordinating Committee with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“The committee provides a forum for integrating on-site and off-site resources for threats that exceed our stand-alone capabilities. The industry is fully committed to working with all levels of government in providing the best security possible to deter an attack and to provide the best possible response should one occur,” he said.
By the end of this year, in meeting security requirements imposed by the NRC after the terrorist attacks, the nuclear energy industry will have spent an additional $1 billion, Fertel said.
“As a result of these new requirements, the number of security officers at our 64 plant sites has increased from approximately 5,000 to 8,000, an average of 125 officers per site. Other changes at nuclear plants include physical improvements to provide additional protection against vehicle bombs, as well as additional protective measures against water- and land-based assaults. Every plant has increased security patrols, augmented security forces, added more security posts, increased vehicle standoff distances, tightened access controls, and enhanced coordination with state and local law enforcement.
“The physical improvements and equipment upgrades comprise the majority of this $1 billion total, yet the industry also has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on additional personnel.”
Congress and other policymakers should consider whether homeland security resources are being used properly, Fertel said, because industries that are not regulated by an entity with authority similar to that which the NRC possesses were not as secure as nuclear power plants prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and have not kept pace with the security enhancements made at nuclear plants since the attacks occurred.
“A comprehensive homeland security policy identifies targets based upon risk and allocates resources appropriately,” he said. “Risk assessments by notable security authorities have found – based on past terrorist targets – that nuclear plants are hardened targets and are considerably less likely to be the focus of terrorist attacks.”
One hundred and three reactors operating in 31 states provide electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses.
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.