Three Mile Island's Security: Video Games at the Guard Post

Let's face it -- the guards employed to protect our facilities sometimes have their hands busy, but much of the time, they are there in an on-call situation.

And as any guard can tell you, there are times when the job can give a death grip of boredom.

Three Mile Island, the nuclear plant near Middletown, Penn., made famous by a March 1979, apparently is no different in its guard stations. That's the word from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which does random safety checks at the state's five nuclear plants.

The DEP apparently visited the facility in the early morning hours of May 26 and reports that it found one of the facility's guards playing a hand-held video game. Now, while that itself is not a violation at the plant (they allow guards to use electronic devices and to read or use the computer while at post -- the goal is to "maintain attention levels for proper response").

The problem came with the fact that the PA DEP official approached the guard post and apparently wasn't even recognized or acknowledged -- on several occasions, says the DEP. It was a sign, said the official, that the guard had become too absorbed into the gaming device to perform his duties.

Now, it seems, that the DEP is calling on the security staff to change its policy and disallow handheld gaming devices. In a news release documenting the event, the DEP went on the record calling for a procedure change or at the very least a review of the use of hand-held electronic devices and games.

The DEP started the unannounced visits following a report of inattentiveness by plant staff. Since then, AmerGen Energy, which operates the facility, has seen the resignation of a shift manager who had been suspected of falling asleep on the job.

The DEP also performs random checks on the Beaver Valley Power Station in Beaver County, the Limerick Generating Station in Montgomery County, the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in York County, and the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station in Luzerne County.