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Nuclear Reactors In the Northeast Are Targets For Terrorism

BBC Monitoring reported September 12, 2001 that Russian intelligence warned the CIA that more attacks were imminent and that "the next target of the terrorists will be an American nuclear facility." An Al Qaeda terrorist captured in Pakistan in September 2002 stated that the first targets considered for the 9/11 terrorist attack were nuclear reactors in the US, but rejected it because of the threat of worldwide contamination (New York Times, 9/9/2002). And prior to 9/11, Amhed Ressam, the terrorist apprehended trying to import explosives into the US to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in 1999, referred in his testimony to a camp in Afghanistan where he received training to destroy power plants, airports, railroads and large corporations (New York Times, 7/4/2001).

Reactor Fuel Pools Are Targets for Terrorism

The National Academy of Science acknowledged that both operating and shuttered reactor sites are targets since the tens of millions of curies of high-level waste contained in fuel pools is the likely target. Dry-cask storage of high level waste is also vulnerable.  None could withstand an attack like America experienced on September 11th. In fact fuel pools and dry-cask storage are more vulnerable and far less secure than the containment buildings.

Vermont Yankee is a Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) with its fuel pool located outside of containment, suspended seven stories above ground with a metal roof. VY has over 50 million curies of high-level waste in its pool. The National Academy of Sciences acknowledges the Mark 1 reactors and their fuel pools are the most vulnerable to a terrorist attack. In addition, Vermont Yankee's dry-cask storage system is vulnerable, located on the banks of the Connecticut River out in the open camouflaged by a wooden fence. Presently there are 5 casks on a concrete pad; there may well be over 40 by the time Vermont Yankee closes.

Dumping It Somewhere Else Is No Help

Shipping high-level waste somewhere else is no answer. Even if Yucca Mountain or another dump were sited, the fuel would not move for decades. As long as reactors create more waste, the pools and dry storage need effective protection. It is also essential that we not forget the deadly effects of routine operation of reactors during peace times that have caused epidemics in disease and great suffering in nuclear fuel cycle communities.

11 Deterrents to Terrorism

1. Federalize security at reactor sites. As with airline security, nuclear corporation's drive for profits undermine their ability to adequately defend nuclear sites.

2. Create Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS) so that an attack on a nuclear reactor site would not result in catastrophic releases. Hardening should allow security to resist almost all types of attacks. The amount of releases projected in even severe attacks should be small enough that the storage system would be unattractive as a terrorist target. Require HOSS, emergency planning and security measures to be maintained at shuttered reactors as well since irradiated fuel is the target for terrorism. Currently, they are not.

• Require that irradiated fuel be removed filled-to-capacity fuel pool.

• Transfer the fuel into dry-cask storage systems that can withstand a terrorist attack from the air, land or water.

3. Create defense-in-depth security plans and train security to deal with realistic attacks.

4. Revise emergency planning. Include terrorist attacks which create a significantly different scenario for evacuation. Intentional aircraft crashes and suicide bombers must be incorporated into all risk assessments for nuclear reactors. Currently, they are not.

5. Create no-fly zones. Require FAA to create no-flight zones over nuclear power stations.

6. Require nuclear reactors to pass the Organizations Safeguards Response Event (OSRE) Program. OSRE was an NRC force-on-force test, held every two years. 47% of all reactors in the country have repeatedly failed the OSRE Testing! NRC has since cancelled the program

• Create a Separate, Independent Division under NRC for the OSRE Program that works directly with the federalized security as well as nuclear corporations.

• Mandate full security tests every two years.

• Require Cessation of Operations. If a reactor fails its OSRE test, it must be shut down until the problems are resolved and security is proven to be adequate.

7. Require reactors to shut down in response to the highest alert in a terrorism scenario. Operators can perform functions best in a non-crisis situation. If any safety system is found inoperable, there may be time for corrective action before a real crisis hits.

8. Require reactor sites to broaden their owner-controlled area/off-limits periphery. Cancel permanently all visitor tours and non-essential deliveries to nuclear plants. Reevaluate the location of schools and other public areas within the 10-mile radius.

9. Extend the emergency planning zone from 10 miles to 500 miles around reactors. In reality, radioactive plumes can travel significant distances. People downwind will need to be protected, and authorities must be prepared ahead of time to respond effectively.

10. Require stockpiling of potassium iodide (KI) for the public in emergency planning zone communities. KI should be stockpiled in schools, shelters, reception centers, hospitals, nursing homes, and correctional facilities for rapid distribution. All residents in the EPZ should have KI available to them in their homes. Down-wind communities where evacuation is not possible because of their unique geographic location should be treated like the EPZ.

11. Create transparency. Reactor information that affects communities must remain available to the public. The increase in security has raised concerns about a meltdown in democracy as NRC and nuclear corporations have used terrorism as an excuse to withhold needed information.

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