The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) on March 14 approved utility restructuring plans aimed at opening up the local natural gas markets to competition. Residential, small business, and...
Seven recommendations to improve TMI's nuclear plant security that have gone unheeded.
Security at Three Mile Island and nuclear generating stations across the nation need to build on lessons learned from 9/11. Three Mile Island Alert (TMIA) remains concerned that suggestions and recommendations made by citizens continue to fall on deaf ears. Charles W. Thurston's article ("A Dynamic Mission: Protecting Utility Assets," Public Utilities Fortnightly, June 15, 2002) gave the misleading impression that utilities have been at the vanguard of pioneering security measures at power plants. His article, which featured Three Mile Island, failed to capture the passive and penurious approach nuclear companies have historically taken toward security and emergency preparedness.
In fact, the containment building at Three Mile Island was "designed" to withstand an airplane crash from a 727 due [only] to public pressure. Environmentalists, and not TMI's owner, requested this modification during hearings convened by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
Between 1990 and 1993, the nuclear industry waged a campaign to weaken security at nuclear power plants, and to reduce the emergency evacuation zone from 10 to two miles. These efforts gained the support of NRC Chairman Ivan Selin. During this period (1993), a serious security breach occurred at TMI, when an escaped patient from an area hospital crashed his vehicle through the North Gate and eluded capture. On February 11, 1993, the NRC's top safety official, Thomas Murley, stated he "wasn't sure" if any regulations had been violated during the incident. Nineteen days later, Samuel Collins, head of the NRC's investigation team, announced, "An individual can challenge the security ... that currently exists."
On February 23, 1993, Three Mile Island Alert testified before the Consumer Affairs Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. TMIA noted that the Department of Energy had taken concrete measures to anticipate potential terrorist attacks at its nuclear weapons complex. However, the nuclear industry had done nothing to anticipate spontaneous terrorist attacks. Ivan Selin, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, agreed with "intelligence agencies" that have advised him "not to worry much about terrorists.... If the world changes such that we have to worry about armed suicidal ... terrorists in the United States, we would know about that." (New York Times, February 11, 1993, A-10)
Mr. Selin's comments were darkly reminiscent of the industry's prediction that a TMI-type accident was "non-credible." On October 17, 2001, due to a "credible threat" against Three Mile Island, the Harrisburg and Lancaster airports were closed for four hours, air travel was restricted in a 20-mile radius, and fighter jets were scrambled around TMI.
TMIA polled several individuals and organizations in security-related fields, and proposed a list of recommendations to enhance site security at Three Mile Island. Below is a "short list" of recommendations we made nearly a decade ago:
- An Independent Assessment of Nuclear Security
Recommendation: Implement security audits annually by an independent, non-governmental entity and the Pennsylvania State Police.
Response: The company and the NRC viewed this proposal as an unnecessary financial burden. On October 6, 2001, the NRC issued a Security Advisory, and mandated 13 "prompt actions"