Security a Top Concern at Nuclear Production Company BWX Technologies

Apr. 23--Security's tight at BWX Technologies. After all, it has to be. You don't want someone walking off with a barrel of uranium.

In a 2005 column in The News & Advance, BWXT's Director of Administration and Chief Security Officer Rick Loving wrote, "As the nuclear industry has grown and the terrorist threat to our national security has become more dangerous and advanced, our protective force has evolved from a small contingent of armed guards to the large, highly sophisticated paramilitary force that is in place today. It is a force that is supported by advanced technologies for detection and assessment deployed in a strategy of concentric layers of increasing protective measures."

The company operates under a license issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which defines BWXT's security training and procedures.

"Our security program meets and in many cases exceeds current NRC requirements," Loving said. "BWXT's security operations and procedures are frequently inspected and audited by the NRC and other government agencies to ensure compliance. In addition, our security force completes periodic performance drills designed to test their effectiveness."

BWXT's security system is more than just fences. Guards, checkpoints and security clearances also protect some of the company's secret projects.

According to Explore BWXT, an internal company magazine, the company has undergone some structural enhancements at its sites including the design, construction, full implementation of access control facilities, electronic site access controls, vehicle barrier systems, a hardened security tower to provide extended visibility and testing and implementation of technology improvements such as the remotely operated automatic weapon system.

"Though our security requirements are mandated by the NRC, BWXT takes a proactive position in establishing and implementing its security measures," Loving said. "We continue to be vigilant in evaluating our procedures and technologies so that our security standards are among the best in the Nation."

Since Sept. 11, 2001, BWXT has worked with the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Homeland Security, and emergency-management and law-enforcement agencies to ensure a high level of response in the event of a possible terrorist attack or potential sabotage, theft or diversion of special nuclear materials.

According to Explore BWXT, the NRC mandated several security upgrades after the 2001 terrorist attacks, including additional personnel and facility upgrades. Funding for these upgrades partially came from the U.S. Department of Energy.

"We have always taken our responsibility of safeguarding nuclear materials, information and technology, as well as our employees and our communities very seriously," Loving said. "Following the terrorist attacks on the U.S. we scrutinized what was already an existing robust security system against emerging threats so that new counter-measures could be put into place."

In addition to the increase in security manpower, officers are equipped with a cache of weapons capable of countering a terrorist force.

BWXT employs the security officers instead of using a third-party security firm, and in many cases are certified law enforcement officers with the same power a police officer has.

"BWXT-required training is defined by NRC regulations," Loving said. "All of our security officers train alongside law-enforcement recruits at the Central Virginia Criminal Justice Academy, which serves the training needs of approximately 58 agencies."

Loving said the company has a close working relationship with area law-enforcement agencies. He said this is unusual for security forces at commercial nuclear power plants, but in the event that something bad does happen both forces will be able to support each other.

[News & Advance, The (Lynchburg, VA) (KRT) -- 04/25/06]