Security At Three Mile Island
Still Concerns Some
By Garry Lenton
Of The Patriot-News - PA

The day after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a Harrisburg-area watchdog group asked the federal government to force nuclear plant operators to put armed guards at their entrances.
Two years later, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not responded to Three Mile Island Alert's request, though the agency has implemented security requirements for the nation's 104 commercial nuclear power plants.
A spokesman for the agency yesterday acknowledged the petition has taken longer than normal to respond to. He said a formal response would be filed within three months.
"I never dreamed that two years later there would even be a need for the petition," said Scott Portzline of Harrisburg, who filed the petition for TMIA. "For years the NRC claimed that they were two steps ahead of terrorists. This proves that they are at least two years behind."
The petition was developed in the weeks before the terrorist attacks occurred. TMIA became concerned when AmerGen, then the new owner of Three Mile Island, decided to eliminate the guards who had for years guarded the entrance to the plant.
The gate was unguarded when the terror attacks occurred.
AmerGen, which operates the TMI, Peach Bottom and Limerick plants in Pennsylvania, and the Oyster Creek station in New Jersey, reinstated the guards shortly after Sept. 11.
"It's just part of our security force," said Dave Simon, a spokesman for Exelon Nuclear, a partner in AmerGen. "It's doing the right thing and ensuring that we are meeting the requirements of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."
Portzline called TMIA's petition a litmus test for the NRC.
The petition asked the NRC to require plant operators to keep at least one armed guard at each entrance to their plant.
The guards would serve as a physical and visual deterrent against attacks, the petition said.
It also specified that the guard should be separate from security forces assigned to guard protected areas of the plants.
TMIA also asked that the agency increase the size of the bomb that plants must protect against.
Some, even all, of TMIA's requests may already have been put in place by the NRC, but because of secrecy rules imposed since the attacks, the agency will not comment.
In April the NRC completed a wholesale revision of its security requirements. They included tighter controls over the number of hours security officers may work; more vigorous background checks of workers with access to critical areas of the plant; security drills and exercises; and increased training with firearms.
"The concerns that were raised here are being addressed, but I can't give you the details," said Jesse Arildsen, senior program manager in the NRC's office of security and incident response.
The petition received eight letters of support, including the Cumberland County Commissioners; township supervisors from Springettsbury, Warring and Lower Allen townships; Lancaster Mayor Charles W. Smithgall and state Rep. Bruce Smith, R-Dillsburg.
Three letters opposed the petition, two from industry-related groups, including the Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Energy Institute.




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