- 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
- 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
- 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.