Security Teams Toughen Training Program

By Fein, Geoff S. | National Defense, April 2004 | Go to article overview

Security Teams Toughen Training Program

Fein, Geoff S., National Defense

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the power plant industry are laying the groundwork for creating an adversary team to test security at the 104 licensed facilities in the United States. Their goal is to standardize force-on-force training at the nation's nuclear power plants.

The adversary unit would be modeled after the Department of Energy's Composite Adversary Team. The DOE CAT is made up of security guards from nuclear facilities. They train together using the tactics and weapons that terrorists use.

NRC officials hope the nuclear industry begins training an adversary team by the fall. Although it will differ from the DOE CAT, the objectives are much the same--to see how well a facility's security holds up against a terrorist threat and to fix any deficiencies.

The NRC does not own or operate any facilities. It is a regulatory agency that establishes plant standards, inspects, and evaluates operations to ensure safety and compliance with its regulations. Commission evaluations include on-site emergency preparedness activities.

The exact composition of the team is classified, according to Alan Madison, chief of security performance evaluation at the NRC.

Because the nuclear power plants are owned privately, industry is responsible for fielding the team, said Madison.

Since 9/11, the approach to security has changed--from haphazard procedures to a more structured system that emphasizes consistency.

The nuclear power industry stepped up security and increased the scope and intensity of training since 9/11, said Madison. But there is still a need to further develop the ability to defend plants against a terrorist attack.

In April 2003, the NRC set an October 2004 deadline for industry to implement changes in security practices and to set up the adversary teams.

"I believe we can meet the objectives," Madison said.

Industry will be able to form its adversary team either by drafting the members from ranks of industry security personnel or by contracting with a private security company. All that really matters is that the team meet the criteria established by the NRC, said Madison.

"We are working to develop criteria for industry," he said.

Once the team is in place, individual sites will contact the agency in charge of the program to set up a training event, said Madison. He expects there will be a few kinks in the beginning, but they will be ironed out over time.

"[We're] not sure how training will work," he said. "We'll adjust it, look at the output" and determine if it meets the NRC's needs.

Security at all plants is tested every three years. However, some Facilities are tested more often, said Madison.

For a training event, industry is notified of the intent to perform an exercise. Madison visits the plant a few weeks before the exercise.

Multiple tabletop drills, using a mock-up of the facility, are run to expose weaknesses in security, said Madison. The roles of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and emergency planners also are examined during the tabletop drill. This helps planners come up with tactics for the live exercise.

Armed with the information gleaned from the site tour and the tabletop exercises, planners draw up a strategy for a series of commando-style attacks seeking to expose deficiencies in security. The adversary team's goal is to cause an accident that would damage the reactor's core. The security force is challenged with interdicting the mock terrorists.

The entire force-on-force exercise takes several days.

During the exercise, normal security at the site remains in place and is not involved in the drill. All weapons and explosives are simulated.

"Our intent is not to cause personnel or the facility any harm," said Madison. "We develop a good, safe scenario."

In 2002, the NRC ran tabletop drills with a selected group of eight nuclear plants. …

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