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Special Report

Industry hopes its centralized assets aren't in the crosshairs.
Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 2001

against tighter security at plants because there was no evidence of a credible terrorist threat.

Edwin Lyman, scientific director for the Nuclear Control Institute in Washington, D.C., says the nuclear industry will probably wait until the current panic subsides before it pushes again for self-assessment of its security operations as an alternative to the NRC assessing its protection mechanisms. "The industry is totally opposed to being graded," Lyman says.

Even after the original bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the NRC relied on trends indicating that nuclear plants were unlikely to be attractive targets of terrorists, says Bennett Ramberg, author of several books on nuclear power and weapons, including . While there is no evidence of cases where terrorists have successfully sabotaged a nuclear reactor anywhere in the world, Ramberg notes recent news from South Asia shows that Pakistani mujaheddin have threatened to sabotage Indian nuclear reactors.


"Despite the rise in incidents and the educational experience of preparing for the Year 2000 conversion exercise, surveys and anecdotal evidence have shown that awareness of potential threats and vulnerabilities, linked to the industry's growing dependency on information systems, is relatively low," NERC said in the study. "To assure the same high levels of service capability into the 21st century, utility executives and their heads of operations, physical security, and cyber security must take steps now to protect their assets, their service, and their public image against the increasing tide of threat and disruption."

NERC recommends that the entire energy sector, as well as the telecommunications and banking industries, participate in regional interdependency simulation exercises to gain a better understanding of how the industries interact. "The value of such tabletop exercises was recognized in the late 1980s by the National Electric Security Committee formed by NERC at the behest of the United States government's National Security Council, as it addressed an increase in state-sponsored global terrorism," the study said.

The electricity sector, NERC noted, may want to take the lead in bringing these industries together to enhance infrastructure security for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics next year.

Quick, Hide the GIS Data

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), the gas pipeline industry lobbying group, has been coordinating with its member companies to beef up security at above-ground facilities and along pipeline rights-of-way, says Martin Edwards, director of legislative affairs for the association.

Many in the energy industry, including INGAA, have urged the federal government to limit the level of information available to the general public about the location of energy facilities. For example, the Office of Pipeline Safety, a regulatory and enforcement agency inside the Department of Transportation, decided to curtail access to its brand new National Pipeline Mapping System, a geographic information system database containing locations and attributes of gas pipelines, hazardous liquid lines, and liquefied natural gas facilities operating in the United States.

Because it took the NPMS off its public Web site, OPS plans to provide information from its mapping database to particular pipeline operators and other energy companies on an as-needed basis, DOT spokesperson Patricia