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[cdn-nucl-l] Nuclear plant security called 'impressive'
Posted in the NorthEast Ohio News-Herald on April 2, 2002 and at:
Nuclear plant security called 'impressive'
Dino DiSanto April 02, 2002
Senator George Voinovich discusses security at the Perry Nuclear Plant
Monday following his tour of the plant.
Senator visits powerplant.
Security at the Perry Nuclear Power Plant continues to live up to the
scrutiny of federal officials.
U.S. Sen. George V. Voinovich was the latest public official to visit
the North Perry Village plant and give it high accolades.
Ohio's Republican junior senator said security at the plant owned by
Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. makes it one of the most secure nuclear
plants in the country.
"Very impressive," Voinovich said during a Monday afternoon visit to the
Voinovich gave a glowing report on the privately trained security forces
and also praised the high tech weaponry on hand and the physical
barriers in place to impede anyone's entrance.
"It is incredible how difficult it is to get into the plant," the
Voinovich's visit is significant for the nuclear industry for a couple
The first is the former Ohio governor is the ranking Republican on the
subcommittee that oversees the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Second, he is a major proponent of the United States expanding its use
of nuclear power in order to shift the country's reliance from coal.
This is significant because not long ago, the nuclear industry was
enjoying a Cinderella-type story. The industry had a friendly Congress
and the backing of Americans for building the first new nuclear power
plants in a generation.
Voinovich was helping to lead that charge by introducing legislation
last year that would encourage development of more nuclear power plants
by updating regulations and policies of the NRC.
But since Sept. 11, Congress has sounded more like the fairy tale's
cruel stepsisters in demanding security makeovers and aggressively
questioning nuclear plants' readiness to repel terrorist attacks.
"If we have to turn these reactors into impregnable fortresses to
withstand kamikaze attacks, it begs the question of whether it's worth
it," said Robert Alvarez, a former Energy Department official who is
executive director of the New York-based STAR Foundation, which is
critical of nuclear power.
Congress started getting cranky when the NRC changed its assessment
about the threat to nuclear plants from terrorists who turn jetliners
Just after Sept. 11, the commission said that plants could withstand the
impact of commandeered aircraft. Later, the commission said it was
possible that such a crash would cause damage "that would result in the
release of radiation."
Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid, D-Nev., is among sponsors of a wide
range of bills that would toughen the security standards for defending
against an array of assaults on plants and would make federal employees
of the security guards who work there.
As it stands, a nuclear plant has to demonstrate a capacity to repel
what is known in the industry as a "three and one attack" - three
well-trained and heavily armed terrorists with one person inside the
plant providing assistance.
Reid's bill would require plants to be able to defend against attacks by
multiple large teams being assisted by several people inside. Plants
also would need to demonstrate the ability to repel attacks from the air
The legislation has drawn opposition from the NRC and the nuclear
The Nuclear Energy Institute's Marvin Fertel said he doubts whether
plants could comply.
"If they passed that bill, we would essentially be required to have an
army, a navy and an air force that would be able to shoot down planes,"
David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer with the Union of Concerned
Scientists and a supporter of the legislation, argued it would "raise
the bar" for safety.
Beyond federalizing plant workers, it would require "force-on-force"
tests every two years to test plants' capacity to repel terrorists.
Those tests have been administered every eight years on average; about
half of the plants routinely failed.
Perry, though, is one of the few plants that has passed the exercise
with flying colors.
Voinovich noted NRC Chairman Paul Meserve gave Perry the highest rating
"This is one of best trained private forces in the country," Voinovich
said. "Federalizing them would not be a wise move."
The senator, who helped start the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency,
was critical of other legislators who were quick to come up with
legislation in reaction to the fears of residents without first getting
an inside look at the nuclear industry.
"I think a lot of people in my business need to get facts before making
comments about situations," the senator said. "If you really look at
these facilities, they are the most inspected and looked at in the
CThe News-Herald 2002