Tags: New | Fears | Terrorist | Strike | Nuclear | Plants

New Fears of Terrorist Strike on Nuclear Plants

Thursday, 31 January 2002 12:00 AM

The Washington Times, MSNBC and CNN reported Thursday that a Nuclear Regulatory Commission memo Jan. 23 placed power plants and government nuclear facilities on a heightened state of alert because of an increased threat of an al-Qaeda terrorist attack.

Though the threat was uncorroborated and based on interrogations of prisoners in Afghanistan, the prospect of a devastating attack on a nuclear target has some critics of nuclear power warning that plant security is badly in need of an upgrade.

Paul Leventhal, president of a group called Nuclear Control Institute, recently said: "Unfortunately, neither the White House nor the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have taken protective measures commensurate with the threat or with the unthinkable consequences of a successful attack on one of these plants. These plants are vulnerable today, and that is intolerable."

Before Sept. 11, nuclear plant security was largely concerned with threats on the ground, and access to the plants was highly restricted. The sight of hijacked airliners slamming into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, however, led to the conclusion that a nuclear plant could be attacked in the same way, and there would be a good chance that deadly radiation would be released into the air.

To NCI, the answer is a stronger presence of military troops, primarily anti-aircraft gunners who would be the last-ditch defense against an extremely high-stakes kamikaze attack.

"U.S. nuclear power plants need immediate military protection," Leventhal said. "Anti-aircraft weapons, under strict rules of engagement and command-and-control, are needed as a last-resort measure in the event fighter interceptors cannot catch up with a jumbo jet headed for a suicidal hit on a plant."

Manning missile batteries and shooting down planes, however, is a military task and not something that will be likely be turned over to the civilian operators of power plants. That leaves the nuclear industry with little to do other than to make sure their security forces are prepared to repulse an attack from the ground, a capability that critics say needs to be improved as well.

Nuclear Energy Institute, a lobby group for the nuclear industry, issued a report this month hailing the training and professionalism of the industry's security forces and concluding that proposals to federalize plant security guards would do little besides create even more bureaucracy and chain-of-command headaches.

The organization has touted the plants themselves as being "hardened" targets that would be able to withstand the crash of an airliner better than most other structures.

"Nuclear power plants containment buildings, in which the reactors are located, are extremely robust," NEI said.

"Reinforced concrete containment structures, coupled with multiple, redundant safety and plant shutdown systems, have been designed to withstand the impact of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods,and airborne objects up to a certain force. Design requirements with respect to aircraft impacts are specific to each facility."

Shortly after Sept. 11, officials at some plants conceded that designing a reactor building that an airliner would bounce off was beyond the scope of most engineers and was not taken into consideration as a possibility when the plants were designed.

That loose end is what gives critics cause for concern. Industry officials agree that power plants weren't designed with a Sept. 11 type of attack in mind. No one is sure what might happen if an airliner was flown into a containment building.

The odds that an airliner might score a direct hit on a nuclear plant may have been huge before Sept. 11, but the following weeks and months have convinced critics such as Leventhal that the odds have narrowed significantly and that the only answer is to treat power plants like a high-priority military target.

"The U.S. government must step in with military protection, or it must be prepared to shut the plants down," he said. "Allowing the plants to continue operating with inadequate security, in some cases only tens of miles from major cities ... is unconscionable."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

All rights reserved.

© 2019 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

   
1Like our page
2Share
Pre-2008
The Washington Times, MSNBC and CNN reported Thursday that a Nuclear Regulatory Commission memo Jan. 23 placed power plants and government nuclear facilities on a heightened state of alert because of an increased threat of an al-Qaeda terrorist attack. Though the threat...
New,Fears,Terrorist,Strike,Nuclear,Plants
658
2002-00-31
Thursday, 31 January 2002 12:00 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.
 

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved