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Nuclear Power Plants Could Be Targets

The Nuclear Control Institute has told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to immediately activate an emergency plan developed several years ago for protecting nuclear power plants against terrorist attack. NCI President Paul Leventhal spoke with NRC Chairman Richard Meserve on the telephone shortly after the World Trade Center attacks, to convey the urgent request, but Meserve said he could not discuss details over an open telephone line..The NRC has the authority, in time of emergency, to order the placement of heavy trucks across access roads to the nation?s 104 commercial nuclear reactors and to upgrade guard forces at the plants. The NCI has long advocated that the NRC upgrade protections at nuclear power plants against truck bomb attacks and other armed assaults. Half the nation?s nuclear power plants have failed to repel NRC-supervised mock terrorist attacks involving only three lightly armed attackers. These exercises have resulted in the ?destruction? of redundant safety systems that would result in severe core damage leading to a meltdown.

In 1994, the NRC adopted a truck-bomb rule following the original bombing of the World Trade Center. They have resisted demands by the NCI and the Los Angeles-based Committee to Bridge the Gap to upgrade the truck-bomb rule and establish barriers and set-back distances sufficient to resist the larger bombs subsequently used against the federal building in Oklahoma City and the U.S. Marine barracks in Saudi Arabia. The nuclear power industry has complained that the costs of upgrading security are too costly, given what they feel is the low probability that they will be attacked.

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