Guards at the nuclear power plant gate not needed, says federal regulators

Flexibility is the key to security, that’s why the Nuclear Regulatory Commission doesn’t require manned checkpoints at the entrance to nuclear power plants.

That’s according to an e-mail from Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the NRC.

Cape Downwinders and Pilgrim Watch filed a petition on Tuesday with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calling for Pilgrim Station to be shut down until changes are made. The petition calls for manned checkpoints and visible surveillance of the plant grounds, according to a press release from the two groups.

A request to require an armed guard at the entrance to all nuclear power plants, made after the September 11 attacks by a group called Three Mile Island Alert, was turned down by the commission. They, Sheehan wrote, “wanted the plant owners to have the ability to allocate resources based on a strategy that will maximize protection of the facility,” instead of putting security personnel somewhere that might be far from critical areas of the plant.

Plant security, he explained, can be described as a series of rings. The first is the “owner-controlled area,” which is where the recent trespassers at Pilgrim Station were intercepted. Past that is the “protected area,” a fenced-in, heavily guarded area that contains  nuclear safety-related buildings and can only be accessed by authorized individuals. Past that is the even more secure “vital area” which contains the reactor and spent fuel pool.

“The welcome mat should not be out for intruders to come and go on Pilgrim’s property- it is after all a nuclear power plant.” asked Pilgrim Watch’s Mary Lampert in a press release. In what sounds like a response, Sheehan wrote,  “just because a motorist is able to drive up and park near the Protected Area without being stopped does not mean there is no surveillance occurring. It’s also a far cry from entering the Protected Area after passing through security barriers and getting in close proximity to important structures.”

Read the 2001 petition from Three Mile Island Alert

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