Wednesday, March 29, 2023 | Back issues
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Nuclear Security

WASHINGTON (CN) - "Reasonable assurances" exist that local, state and federal authorities can integrate their defense of nuclear facilities against terrorist attack, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which rejected a petition for biennial demonstrations that such assurances are credible.

David Lochbaum's petition, submitted on behalf of the Project on Government Oversight and the Union of Concerned Scientists, noted that while operators of nuclear plants are required to show they can defend their facilities against a takeover, off-site law enforcement and emergency response authorities are not.

In its opinion, the NRC states that the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are responsible for planning off-site responses to nuclear facility sabotage. Both agencies insist that their integrated response plans are sufficient and that the NRC has no authority to compel any off-site authorities to participate in an integrated demonstration.

Commissioner Gregory Jaczko dissented from the decision, arguing that while the NRC could not require local jurisdictions to participate it could encourage participation by requiring plant operators to secure local cooperation for integrated response demonstrations. The dissent continues, "Rather than searching for a legalistic reason to dismiss the petition, the agency would be much better served by analyzing the substance of the proposal and basing its decision on the petition for rulemaking on the merits."

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