Lack of flight restrictions over nuclear power plant concerns committee (with video)

Paul Rifkin, a Cotuit resident and an opponent of the relicensing of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, recently took photographs of it from a helicopter.

He told CapeNews.Net he was shocked that he recivred no warning, either from Pilgrim security or flight controllers, for his actions. He shouldn’t have been.

It seems that, while entering the power plant’s property from land or sea is tightly controlled, flying over it is just fine. While aviators are advised to avoid it, Pilgrim Station is not in a no-fly zone, PNPS spokesman David Tarantino told the Nuclear Matters Committee Monday night.  If an aircraft were to linger near the plant, security would contact the FAA, he said.

NMC Chairman Jeff Berger said he was suprised that flying over Pilgrim violated no rules.

Aircraft in the vicinity of the power plant are monitored by the FAA, Plymouth Emergency Manager Aaron Wallace said. If an aircraft is deemed a threat, fighter jets can be sent to intercept it.

That didn’t seem to impress several of those in the room. Selectman John Mahoney, who is the board’s liaison to the NMC noted that, when Entergy officials gave a presentation at Plymouth North High School last year, residents were told any threatening aircraft wouldn’t get close to Pilgrim. “Obviously, that was fraudulent,” Mahoney said.

Committee member Richard Grassie noted that an aircraft might not look threatening, but could be gathering intelligence. Though both Pilgrim Watch head Mary Lampert and committee member Paul Smith observed the same information could be gathered via the Internet.

While it was debatable whether it would be better to spy on Pilgrim Station via air or Internet, keeping people from flying over it seemed desirable to the committee. According to Grassie, the FAA is responsible for the air space over nuclear power plants. He recommended the committee study how other communities with nuclear power plants restrict air and water access. Committee member Jim Simpson questioned how much good a no-fly zone would do, noting the fighter jets that would intercept any air attack are based at Westover Air Reserve Base near Westover. In the end, the NMC voted to follow Grassie’s suggestion.

Watch the Nuclear Mattes Committee Meeting.

Nuclear Matters Committee, October 15, 2012 (Part 1)

Nuclear Matters Committee, October 15, 2012 (Part 2)

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