(cross-posted at The Hill's Congress Blog)
It is disappointing that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission missed this opportunity to help solve America's nuclear reactor security problem. These new regulations, initiated by a section of the 2005 Energy Policy Act that I wrote, were supposed to significantly enhance our ability to secure nuclear reactors in the post-September 11th era. It does not do so. Instead, it reflects an inadequate, industry-influenced approach that sacrifices security in favor of corporate profits.
There two kinds of measures we can implement to harden existing reactors:
1.) Harden reactors to contain the radioactive stuff inside - for instance, more concrete and steel for the containment of the reactor vessel; putting the spent fuel storage pools in a hardened building; increase the protection for the control room and electrical connections to the backup diesel generators that supply power to the reactor in the event of a cutoff of external power.
2.) Add reliability and redundancy of the safety-related features in the event of fire or other potential disaster.
We are not just talking about preventing the aircraft from crashing per se. We are talking about minimizing the consequences of a radioactive release, ensuring that the safety features of the reactor can be operated after a crash, etc.
In the wake of September 11, Finland implemented a requirement that all new reactors are designed with the impact and consequences of an attack by a large commercial airliner in mind. Companies wishing to win the Finnish contracts have figured out a way to comply. How is it possible that the U.S. can't do the same?
* * *
(For more on Rep. Markey's work on nuclear security, please go to http://markey.house.gov)