In Defense of Nuclear Energy; Technology and Know-How Secure facilities.(OPED)

Article excerpt

Byline: Ralph Beedle, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Since the tragic events of September 11 brought terrorism onto U.S. shores, security concerns have become an overwhelming priority for America's critical infrastructure, airports and other civil services. Our government, businesses and even our entertainment industry have had to alter their entire security procedures in light of the changed world we live in.

The nuclear energy industry has implemented a number of enhancements at our facilities, but the reality is that nuclear power plants were the most secure industrial facilities in the United States before September 11. Today, we're even more secure.

Since last September, security enhancements at nuclear power plants include: extending the security perimeters at our plants, increasing armed security patrols and increasing well-qualified security staffing to 6,000 at 67 nuclear plant sites and augmenting almost-daily coordination with local, state and federal law-enforcement authorities.

Seventy percent of security officers at the nation's nuclear power plants are former military, law-enforcement or industrial security professionals - including former U.S. Secret Service, Delta Force and other paramilitary officers skilled in counterterrorism tactics. They are heavily armed, well-trained and highly compensated officers who form the front line of a comprehensive security program.

James Kallstrom, former director of the New York Office of Public Security, said after a review of the Indian Point nuclear power plant: "What I care about is the security of this plant, the ability of a terrorist organization to take it over, and I can tell you, it's robust enough to let 'em try." Mr. Kallstrom's view is not unusual. State security directors, governors and members of Congress who have visited nuclear plants recently are universally impressed by their robust security programs.

It is unfortunate that in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, a few special-interest groups have sought to further their nuclear phaseout agenda by spinning unwarranted tales of nuclear disaster. Their conjecture is alarmist and irresponsible, and has been discredited repeatedly by officials responsible for security issues.

No business can guarantee it won't be targeted with an act of war similar to the September 11 attacks. But nuclear power plants already are among the most robust and closely protected facilities, and the industry has worked with federal, state and local authorities to ensure that a seamless response exists to guard against terrorist threats.

Nuclear power plant buildings that protect reactors are extremely strong and designed to resist catastrophes. The steel-reinforced concrete containment structures have been designed to withstand the impact of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and airborne objects with tremendous force. Nuclear power plants were designed with a "defense-in-depth" safety strategy that includes metal sleeves that hold the low-enriched uranium fuel, and a combined 12 feet of concrete and steel between the reactor fuel and the outside of the reactor building. …