- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An American nuclear power plant recently was the
target of a terrorist threat, according to a letter from the head of the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission that was made public by a Democratic lawmaker
- Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey, a frequent
critic of the nuclear agency, said the threat was revealed to him in a
May 3 letter from NRC Chairwoman Shirley Ann Jackson.
- The letter also addressed the Democrat's
concerns about anti-terrorism protection for nuclear facilities.
- The NRC did not identify which nuclear
plant was targeted for attack or elaborate on the incident.
- ``We can't release that information because
it's classified and came from intelligence sources,'' an agency spokesman
- The threat was ``general in nature,''
and the time frame for the threatened attack passed without a problem,
the NRC said.
- There are currently some 103 operating
nuclear power plants in the country.
- One of the many questions posed by Markey
to the NRC asked if there had been any recent credible threats of terrorism
or sabotage against U.S. nuclear plants.
- ``During recent months, one reported
threat was assessed as having low but sufficient credibility to warrant
an NRC threat advisory,'' the NRC responded in the letter.
- Markey has often complained that the
NRC does not do enough to protect nuclear facilities. Last year he objected
to the cancellation of the Operational Safeguards Response Evaluation
(OSRE) program, which was later reinstated.
- ``This letter gives no evidence that
the NRC followed its own objectives of risk-informed regulation when it
temporarily eliminated this counter-terrorism program,'' Markey said in
- ``As our bombers attack both Serbia and
Iraq, we must be vigilant that our nuclear plants are able to defend themselves
and prevent a catastrophic nuclear event,'' he added.
- Jackson said the safeguards program was
one of many systems in place to protect plants from attack. She also acknowledged
that a tight agency budget has forced difficult decisions on safety programs.
- Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for the Nuclear
Energy Institute, the industry trade group, said every U.S. nuclear plant
has safeguards in place against intrusions.
- In 1993 a man was able to breach security
at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, causing industry-wide safety reviews.
- Last year, training drills at 57 U.S.
nuclear sites revealed security weaknesses at half of the locations, Markey
said. Some 14 of the plants had ``severe'' security breaches in mock
attacks, endangering core reactor operations that could prompt radioactive