U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., wrote Friday to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that “the communities that surround existing plants need to be confident that the NRC, as the regulator charged with nuclear safety, did all it could to ensure that plants defend against current security threats. In particular, communities should be assured that the plants are prepared to defend against large attacking forces and commercial aircraft.”
Failing to address these issues, Boxer wrote, would be at odds with the intent of Congress in passing the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
Well, it seems the commissioners will have some serious explaining to do when they next appear before Boxer’s committee: They voted Monday against requiring existing nuclear power plants to be protected against attacks by airplanes, or against more than a small number of ground attackers.
This, despite the 9/11 Commission finding that the plotters had considered targeting nuclear reactors, and the common knowledge that a successful terrorist attack on a nuclear plant could cause a devastating radioactive release.
“Rather than requiring measures to prevent a plane crash from damaging vulnerable parts of a nuclear plant, which would be the smartest course, the government is relying on post-crash measures and evacuation plans to attempt to ‘mitigate’ the public’s exposure to radiation,” said Michele Boyd, legislative director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. “Fire prevention is always better than fire fighting. Nuclear terrorism prevention is far more prudent than trying to reduce radiation exposures after the fact.”