All Nuclear Power Plants Meet NRC Deadline for Security Enhancements

All of the 103 commercial nuclear power plants operating at 64 sites in 31 states have met the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Oct. 29 deadline for implementing more stringent security measures. The NRC in April 2003 issued three security orders that included a requirement that the industry take measures to meet the agency's new description of the size and attributes of an attacking force against which the industry must be able to defend its facilities.

The deadline for implementation of these measures -- the culmination of a series of five NRC security orders issued since February 2002 -- is Friday.

To meet the NRC's security requirements, the nuclear power plants that provide electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses have taken the following measures:

  • increased the size of their paramilitary security forces by 60 percent to a total of 8,000 officers;
  • made substantial physical improvements to provide additional protection against vehicle bombs and other potential terrorist assaults;
  • increased training for security officers;
  • established a rigorous "force on force" mock adversary exercise regime;
  • increased security patrols;
  • added more security posts;
  • increased vehicle standoff distances;
  • tightened access controls; and
  • enhanced coordination with state and local law enforcement.

"These security enhancements will continue to make nuclear power plants the most secure industrial facilities in America," said Marvin Fertel, the Nuclear Energy Institute's chief nuclear officer.

Expenditures for the security manpower and capital improvements total in excess of $1 billion since 2001. This sum is above and beyond the hundreds of millions of dollars that cumulatively had been spent on security prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"The nuclear energy industry is fully committed to protecting its employees, the public and its assets," Fertel said. "Through voluntary actions and in response to regulatory requirements, we have taken extraordinary measures to beef up physical and cyber security, improve training, expand our paramilitary security forces and coordinate extensively with government entities on security matters."

With federal oversight from the NRC, the industry systematically reviews and challenges its security programs to further strengthen its robust defenses. Fertel cautioned, however, that on the heels of the latest security enhancements, there must be a period of regulatory stability so industry can fully integrate the new security programs into plant operations.

While this integration is taking place, Congress and other policymakers should consider whether homeland security resources are being used properly across the nation's critical infrastructure, Fertel said. Industries that are not regulated by an entity with the responsibility and authority similar to that of the NRC were not as secure as nuclear power plants prior to 2001, and have not kept pace with the security enhancements made at nuclear plants during the past three years.

With these recent enhancements to on-site security, the industry believes the focus should shift to enhancing the integrated responses of all off-site entities in support of plants' security forces. Consideration of integrated off-site security responses and emergency preparedness activities at commercial nuclear facilities has intensified recently with the formation of a Nuclear Sector Coordinating Council. The council consists of industry leaders and is partnered with the federal government's Nuclear Sector Government Coordinating Council, which is led by Department of Homeland Security, NRC and Department of Energy representatives.

The coordinating council was formed in response to a presidential homeland security directive, and it held its first official meeting on Oct. 13 in Washington, D.C. Council-level strategy meetings will be held at least quarterly. The mission of the coordinating council is to identify and implement ways to enhance security and emergency preparedness around nuclear facilities, primarily beyond the exclusive responsibility of a nuclear plant's security force.