Nuclear Insecurity

Article excerpt

When a video surfaced recently showing nuclear power plant guards asleep on the job, it seemed that Homer Simpson may have found his real-life counterparts. But federal regulators and nuclear plant owners were understandably not amused and the resulting scandal has cost one executive his job and could spark a re-evaluation of federal policy as it relates to nuclear plant security.

The incident actually began early last year when Kerry Beal, a guard at the Peach Bottom nuclear plant in Pennsylvania, complained to his supervisors at the private security firm Wackenhut Corp. that some of his colleagues were taking regular naps while on the clock. His concerns were dismissed, however. Undeterred, he alerted his regional Nuclear Regulatory Commission office but the matter was dropped when Exelon, the plant's owner, could find no wrongdoing. But Beal did not stop there. He videotaped the sleeping guards and sent the tape to a WCBS affiliate, who subsequently aired it.

The impact for Wackenhut was decisive. Exelon ended its contract with Wackenhut at its 10 nuclear facilities and Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Aden Specter (R-PA) urged the Committee on Environment and Public Works and the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety to initiate a federal investigation into the company's security lapses in an effort to not only ensure public safety, but to determine if any improvements can be made in current nuclear security procedures. …