A Target for Terrorists

One of the theoretical disadvantages of building more nuclear power plants may have become more real…

(CNN) — Security has been heightened at Sweden’s nuclear power plants after explosives were discovered on a vehicle entering a protected nuclear site, authorities said Thursday.

The truck was stopped at the Ringhals nuclear power plant on Wednesday afternoon, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority said.

The suspicious material was discovered before the vehicle had entered the protected area, it said.

Police are now investigating suspected sabotage, said the plant’s owner, Vattenfall.

The “explosive paste” was uncovered by sniffer dogs during a routine security check, the company said in a statement.

This story is new, we’ll hear more in the next few days.

Since 9/11, security in the US has been upgraded. From the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission…

One of the most important components of security programs at nuclear power facilities is the security force. Over the past five years, the NRC has required power plants to add more training and higher qualification standards for security personnel, while substantially increasing the number of officers on the force. Plant security officers, for example, must now be trained under more realistic conditions and against moving targets. In order to minimize security personnel fatigue and ensure a vigilant and effective security force, the NRC has instituted additional fitness-for-duty requirements and work hours controls.

In accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the NRC has also strengthened requirements for fingerprinting and background checks for various types of licensees and certificate holders. On Jan. 4, 2006, the NRC entered into an agreement with the federal government’s Terrorist Screening Center to review records of individuals with unescorted access to nuclear power reactor facilities. This collaborative effort automated and streamlined the collection and dissemination of information used to determine the trustworthiness of individuals who have unescorted access to certain vital areas of nuclear power plants. It also enhances the process of identifying anyone with access to these areas who may pose a threat to national security.

If you read closely, government is depending on industry to do its part. Japan seemed to have a well-run and transparent nuclear industry before Fukushima, but it has emerged that political and industry corruption suppressed efforts to maintain a level of safety that might have spared the people of Japan from a man-made disaster in the wake of the Tsunami. We don’t usually think of Japan as being eroded by organized crime, but that’s a factor too…

After the arrest of a yakuza boss for his alleged role in supplying workers to TEPCO’s Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Plant, we are learning the details of how Japan’s nuclear industry relied on organized crime. Since July of last year, a few months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami resulted in a triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant, investigators have been probing possible yakuza links to TEPCO and the nuclear industry under the guidance of the National Police Agency.

When we look at the situation of workers generally, and the inadequacy of government oversight in other areas, and add corruption and crime, it’s clear that there’s an expectation that the nuclear industry will operate on a higher and more pure level than any other. Have they earned this faith?

Any proposed new nuclear plant must factor in the cost of providing security, basically forever. Long after the plant has stopped producing power, the toxic waste will have to be kept from terrorists and criminals who could use it for weapons. That’s in addition to human error and whatever changes may come in the future that would make us relax our vigilance. There are dirty sites all over the world from decades of Cold War politics, from industrial and medical use of radioactive materials.

The incident in Sweden might not turn out to be a real threat, but the real threat is always a possibility– a curse we are handing down to future generations.

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One response

  1. Donald Wolberg | Reply

    One should take note that the world is a dangerous place, ut to lapse into fear to live, is exactly what the looney and dangerous count on happening. if we wallow in fear to do anything because there may be nasty people with or without an agenda about, we will accomplish what they want. All nuclear plants are amazingly secire with layer of protection. Access is difficult and always improving. Construction of modern facilities are amazingly robust, but of course nothing is totally immune to damage by a determined foe. To date, military action with very sophisticated weaponry, badly damaged or destroyedtwo facilities under construction in Iraq and Syria. They were not operational facilities.

    Sweden opted for nuclear power because it is “clean, reliable (24/7), and relatively inexpensive for a country with very limited energy resources. Any energy facility is potentially vulnerable to a military strike, and some damage may even result from more limited terrorist attacks to coal fired electrical facilities, gas plants, and even solar plants. All of these are now proteced by security measures. An attack on a nuclear facility has more of a panache, especially because terrorists expect alarmists to react strongly, largely resulting from an unfamiliarity with what nuclear power is all about. The 105 nuclear reactors in the U.S. have intensive security measures in place. There are about 110 military reactors operating in the U.S. To date, none have been cmpromised by lonney terrorists. This is not to say they will not try; certainly they will. But just as certainly, they can be deterred.

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