Nuclear reactors across the country are not adequately protected against credible terrorist threats. That's the finding of an independent report released Thursday. The study was prepared at the request of the Defense Department and it lists Indian Point in New York among the sites most at risk. YNN's Washington, D.C. bureau reporter Geoff Bennett has the story.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project, based at the University of Texas at Austin, says that none of the nation's commercial nuclear power reactors are protected against a 9/11 style attack.
"There's a difference between the level of protection that facilities have to provide and the level of threat that's out there. And you might think, 'Well, the U.S. government will provide the difference.' But unfortunately, the U.S. government doesn't," said Professor Alan J. Kuperman, the NPPP’s coordinator.
The report finds that facilities located near waterways are most at risk, deemed unprotected from attacks from the sea.
Kuperman said, "For example, a ship-borne explosion that would cut off the supply of cooling water could lead to a meltdown, an accident and a release of radiation."
The nuclear energy industry is calling foul over this report. The say their plants are the most secure industrial facilities in the United States and point to security programs, they say, have been enhanced significantly since the attacks of September 11th.
"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, our federal regulators, hold our nuclear power plants to the highest standard. Higher than any other industry," said Duke Energy Spokesperson Christine Pulley.
But the report, written primarily by a graduate research assistant, says that the standards used by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission don't take into account the maximum terrorist threat.
"U.S. civilian nuclear facilities have to defend against a potential attack from maybe five or six attackers. But we know that the maximum credible threat is 19 attackers, which is what occurred on 9/11," Kuperman said.
"What it is is a graduate research assistant getting opinions from basically anti-nuclear groups around the country. We don't base our security standards on the opinions of a graduate research assistant. We base it on what the NRC regulates us to and what the other federal intelligence community, who assess the threats on a regular basis, advises us to do. And we meet those requirements and go beyond those requirements. And that’s how we conduct our business," said Tony Pietrangelo, NEI Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer.
Kuperman points out that the research assistant -- Lara Kirkham -- was previously an officer in the U.S. Navy, responsible for supervising 30 technicians on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS George H.W. Bush. She also holds a law degree and a master’s degree in public affairs.
It’s now up to the Pentagon to determine the next steps.