By Ann de Rouffignac
HOUSTON, Sept. 11, 2001 – As Tuesday’s national emergency unfolded, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent out security “advisories” to all 103 nuclear power plants and fuels facilities, said a spokesman for the NRC.
“We are in the process of communicating to fuel facilities and all plants to implement heightened security measures,” said Jan Strasma, spokesman for the NRC. “At this time we know of no specific threats to any nuclear facilities.”
The nuclear plants are, however, responsible for security individually, he said.
The concrete containment buildings that surround and protect the plants’ core where the nuclear reaction takes place are designed to withstand direct impact of a 747 jet plane, Strasma said. All nuclear power plants in the US have containment buildings.
Alan Mikus, spokesman for the South Texas Nuclear Plant located near Bay City, Tex., a unit of Reliant Energy Inc., Houston, said the power plant was in a “heightened state of awareness” and following all NRC advisories. Mikus declined to elaborate.
Nuclear plant operator Duke Energy Corp., Charlotte, NC, said its business units are operating under a “heightened” state of security as a result of the “tragic events that have occurred.” It reported the company’s electric generating and transmissions facilities and pipelines are operating normally.
“We are operating as normally as possible – considering the tragic circumstances that have occurred” said CEO Rick Priory. “We are working to ensure that the energy infrastructure we provide continues to operate without interruption.”
Concerning other types of terrorism that might be launched against a nuclear power plant, the NRC adopted more stringent security measures in 1993, after the first bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.
At that time, the NRC ordered a design that could protect against a truck bomb and use of a four-wheel drive vehicles used to carry terrorists with explosives. By 1995, each nuclear plant had its plan in place and by 1996, each plant implemented the required vehicle control and barrier systems.
A spokesman for the National Infrastructure Protection Center, an arm of the FBI in Washington, said it was not in a position to confirm anything. He said the agency is still waiting for reports to come in.