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Security

Nuclear reactors are sitting-duck targets, poorly protected and vulnerable to sabotage or attack. If their radioactive inventories were released in the event of a serious attack, hundreds of thousands of people could die immediately, or later, due to radiation sickness or latent cancers. Vast areas of the U.S. could become national sacrifice zones - an outcome too serious to risk. Beyond Nuclear advocates for the shutdown of nuclear power.

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Thursday
Dec222016

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) challenges industry's attempt to wrest Force-on-Force security inspections away from NRC

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA)Begging the question "Why does NRC even exist then?!", nuclear power industry lobbyists have urged that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission relinquish legally-required, agency-conducted Force-on-Force security inspections at nuclear power plants, and instead allow the nuclear utilities simply take care of them.

U.S. Senator Ed J. Markey (Democrat-Massaschusetts), a 40-year congressional watchdog on the nuclear power industry, has pushed back strongly against this fox-guards-the-henhouse proposal.

Citing recent revelations of terrorist plots against atomic reactors in Belgium, the 9/11 Commission Report's admission that Indian Point near New York City was under consideration for attack, and the most recent security-related incident at a U.S. reactor (the illegal disabling of a security guard force weapon at Seabrook in New Hampshire), Markey -- in a letter to NRC Chairman Steve Burns -- warned that agency-conducted Force-on-Force security inspections are a legal requirement.

Markey should know -- he authored that section of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 himself!

Markey serves on the U.S. Senate committee of jurisdiction, with oversight on NRC -- Environment and Public Works. In fact, he is Ranking Member (that is, the top Democrat) on the Regulatory Oversight and Waste Management Subcommittee (high-level radioactive waste, stored on-site at atomic reactors in vulnerable indoor wet pools and outdoor dry casks, is itself a serious security risk, despite industry and NRC's attempts to deny this).

A sign of NRC staff's deep and dark cynicism, Dave Lochbaum of Union of Concerned Scientists -- at a public event near Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI in April 2013 -- mentioned that Markey's tireless efforts to hold the agency's feet to the fire, in the form of letters to the Chairman, are jokingly referred to as "Markey-grams." Ironically enough, a series of just such letters addressed Palisades itself. In fact, it was Markey who exposed a major scandal, in June 2012, involving a "crisis in the control room" at Palisades. An earlier example involved a scandalous security breach at Palisades, exposed by Esquire magazine; then-U.S. Rep. Markey was the only Member of Congress to do anything about it.

Tuesday
Dec062016

Forbes: A hacking breach at a nuclear reactor could "kill millions - a cyber 9-11"

As Tweeted out by Scott Stapf of the Hastings Group:

Forbes: A #hacking breach at a #nuclear reactor could "kill millions - a cyber 9-11."

The article, entitled "Technologists and Security Experts Warn of Trump's Cybersecurity Plans," quotes a warning by David Cowan, co-founder of VeriSign:

President Trump’s deregulatory policies will jeopardize not only privacy, but also national security. Our homeland’s greatest vulnerability may well be the cyber threat to our critical infrastructure, potentially disrupting life-support services like power and water. Furthermore, a single breach of a water treatment facility, dam, or nuclear reactor can directly kill millions of people – a cyber 9-11. And yet today most of the nation’s utilities run un-patched software on industrial control systems that remain defenseless, awaiting NERC cyber regulations to kick in next year.  A four-year reprieve from these rules by Trump’s administration will expose the U.S. to a massive terrorist attack, and open the door for Russia or other nations to embed cyber bombs in our machinery for future activation. Even if the Defense Department can accurately attribute such attacks, they can only retaliate—they cannot prevent them.

Monday
Jul182016

Untrained Palisades security guards scapegoated by Entergy management for fire risk violations

As reported by Cody Comb's of WWMT-TV 3's I-Team, who originally broke the story of fire risk violations at Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor earlier this month, based on whistle-blower revelations, additional whistle-blowers have revealed they are being scapegoated by management that didn't even see fit to train them properly in the first place.

A key question -- will the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) yet again be complicit with Entergy, by effectively taking part in that scapegoating?

WWMT quoted a Palisades security guard who has been placed on administrative paid leave:

"I'm on paid leave right now, and I have been for almost a month," said one of the plant workers, agreeing to speak with Newschannel 3's I-Team on the condition of anonymity.

"Now the company [Entergy] lawyer is asking us questions, saying the NRC will be speaking with us…and that we could be criminally liable," the worker added...

"The training department never once trained us on fire tours," the officer said. "Security used to have a fire brigade that had a certain number of security members on shift, but when Entergy bought the plant they got rid of that…there's a whole fire brigade staff at that plant right now that have never trained anybody on how to do the fire tours."

Also as reported by Combs:

According to a source with knowledge of previous Palisades labor issues and investigations...the supervisors at the plant who signed off on the [falsified] paperwork were not placed on leave during the investigation, adding concern about the seriousness of the investigation.

"There's a significant lack of leadership in the security area there, that's for sure," said the source.

WWMT also quoted Beyond Nuclear:

Beyond Nuclear, a group known for its opposition to nuclear energy, is not mincing words about the current Palisades investigation.

"Fire itself is 50% of the risk in terms of a meltdown," said Kevin Kamps, a radioactive waste watchdog for Beyond Nuclear. "It's as much of a risk as all the other risks put together, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and accidents."

Kamps said he is also concerned about the Palisades track record, referencing several incidents in the [45] year old plant's recent history.

"We have such collusion at Palisades, in large measure we've got the NRC covering up for Entergy (owner of the plant), and the NRC has allowed for fire risks to go unaddressed for decades now."

The collusion to which Kamps referred was that at Fukushima Daiichi, which the Japanese Parliament, after a year-long investigation, concluded was the root cause of the nuclear catastrophe. Collusion between nuclear safety regulatory agency, Tokyo Electric Power Company, and government officials is what led to the vulnerability of the three reactors to the natural disasters that wrecked them on 3/11/11, resulting in the triple meltdown, and catastrophic releases of hazardous releases of radioactivity. 

Such collusion exists in spades at Palisades, between NRC, Entergy, and the likes of U.S. Representative Fred Upton (R-MI). Upton chairs the powerful U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee, with jurisdiction over nuclear safety. Palisades is in his congressional district. But Entergy, a major campaign contributor, can do no wrong in Upton's view.

Saturday
Jul092016

Beyond Nuclear Backgrounder re: fire & security risks at Palisades in light of WWMT's “Security workers placed on leave at [Entergy's Palisades] nuclear plant”

Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI, located on the Lake Michigan shoreline four miles south of South HavenKalamazoo, MI’s (35 miles downwind of Palisades; see a photo of the reactor, left) WWMT TV-3 on July 8, 2016’s evening news broadcast aired a story entitled “Security workers placed on leave at [Entergy’s Palisades] nuclear plant.” The video, and transcript, is posted online at: http://wwmt.com/news/i-team/security-workers-placed-on-leave-at-nuclear-plant.

Regarding the revelation that Entergy Nuclear had placed security guards on paid administrative leave for “fire inspection anomalies,” and Entergy’s claim that not only security -- but also fire protection -- duties are being adequately covered by “strong interim actions,” WWMT’s ITEAM investigative reporter, Cody Combs, reported:

But over at Beyond Nuclear, a group critical of the Palisades plant, Kevin Kamps is skeptical, especially with so few details from Palisades.

“So the questions that are raised are, did security guards pretend to make their rounds and not really do it, and just fill out the paperwork like they had?” he asked.

The 45-year-old plant is no stranger to security investigations and violations. Kamps says both Palisades and the NRC need to be more forthcoming.

“There have been some major incidents at Palisades, that the NRC, to be frank, was complicit in helping to cover up,” Kamps said.

In response to the news story, on July 9th Beyond Nuclear prepared a backgrounder, to provide significant additional context, information, and documentation. See the PDF version, as well as the Word version (with live URL links to additional documentation).

Then, on July 14th, Beyond Nuclear prepared a supplementary backgrounder, entitled BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE ON NUCLEAR REGULATIONS! Palisades: Lessons NOT Learned from Entergy’s Prior Fire Safety and Security Violations. It includes a section entitled REVELATIONS FROM SIMILAR PRIOR VIOLATIONS AT ENTERGY’S WATERFORD NUCLEAR POWER PLANT IN LOUISIANA COULD SHED LIGHT ON CURRENT VIOLATIONS AT PALISADES. See the PDF version, as well as the Word version (with live URL links to additional documentation).

Beyond Nuclear issued a press release about the supplemental backgrounder, and significant updates learned in recent days, such as: 22 Palisades security guards have been relieved of their duties; the remainder of the security guard force are being pressured to sign waivers, and then to work 75 hour work-weeks, in violation of NRC's standard fatigue rule limits; and the FBI has joined NRC's Office of Investigations on site to look into the violations.

Thursday
Jun162016

Beyond Nuclear challenges safety & security risks at Point Beach atomic reactors on Lake Michigan shore in WI

The Point Beach atomic reactors, north of Two Rivers, WI on the Lake Michigan shore.As reported by Chuck Quirmbach at Wisconsin Public Radio, regarding the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) annual performance review of the two-reactor Point Beach nuclear power plant, owned by NextEra/Florida Power & Light, on the Lake Michigan shore:

In Wisconsin, critics and proponents of nuclear power disagree on whether the state’s sole operating nuclear plant, Point Beach, located north of Two Rivers, meets safety standards to prevent the release of potentially harmful radiation in an emergency.

The precautions that have been put in place at Point Beach may still not ward off threats like bad weather, said Kevin Kamps from the non-profit group Beyond Nuclear.

"It doesn't necessarily take an earthquake and a tsunami to catastrophically wreck a nuclear power plant. In the Great Lakes region, you have ice storms and tornados," Kamps said. "All that you need to have is loss of the electric grid – the primary source of electricity for safety systems at a nuclear power plant – and simultaneous loss of the emergency diesel generators."

If a terrorist got into a nuclear power plant, Kamps said, there's not enough protection of the radioactive waste stored in in-plant pools,

"(In-plant pools) have no robust radiological containment around them. They are simply industrial warehouse-type buildings and are mega-catastrophes waiting to happen," he said.

Kamps advocates taking more spent fuel out of the pools and placing it into concrete and steel casks in fenced-off areas outside the plant.

Beyond Nuclear, along with hundreds of environmental groups across the U.S., representing all 50 states, actually calls for Hardened On-Site Storage of existing irradiated nuclear fuel, and reactor permanent shutdown of atomic reactors ASAP, to stop the generation of any more high-level radioactive waste.

Point Beach Unit 2, and Palisades in Michigan (owned by Entergy) -- on opposite sides of Lake Michigan -- are the two worst embrittled reactor pressure vessels (RPVs) in the U.S. The Great Lakes are the drinking water supply for 40 million people in the U.S. and Canada, as well as a large number of Native American First Nations. RPV embrittlement increases pressurized thermal shock risks, a pathway to core meltdown.

WI NPR's on air report also mentioned that Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps will attend the annual Midwest Renewable Energy Association festival, info. tabling and presenting "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer" workshops alongside John LaForge of Nukewatch Wisconsin.