Nuclear Sites Boost Safety Measures after 9/11
Byline: Jamin Mendelsohn Medill News Service
Driving up to a nuclear power plant these days looks like what you might expect at a state penitentiary: security checkpoints, abundant razor wire and omniscient watchtowers are new security developments since Sept. 11.
Entering Braidwood Generating Station, Exelon Corp's nuclear complex 60 miles southwest of Chicago, visitors place their palm on a futuristic hand-shaped scanner which grants initial access. Outsiders are expected to remain with an escort at all times, and several restricted areas can only be entered after a series of card swipes. There is even protocol for who, escort or visitor, walks through each doorway first.
After Sept. 11, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission urged all nuclear plants to heighten security. Compliance has been costly for Chicago-based Exelon, owner and operator of the largest nuclear fleet in the United States including all of Illinois' 11 nuclear reactors. The utility has invested more than $15 million for upgrades and allocated $20 million annually in additional operating expenses.
At Braidwood, the newest of its plants, Exelon has spent $18 million on on-site security. The safety facelift includes permanently installed outer vehicle barriers; miles of concrete barriers; a complex system of tall obstacles, fences, razor wire and electronic detectors; and multiple security towers with raised firing positions that are manned around the clock. …