New threat requirements

3 June 2003

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has revised the design basis threat for nuclear power plants and fuel cycle facilities. This specifies "the largest reasonable threat against which a regulated private security force should be expected to defend under existing law", and it will require some re-ordering of protective measures and security.

Details remain confidential, and the industry has 18 months to fully implement the measures, including training of personnel. Marvin Fertel of the Nuclear Energy Institute said that the NRC order marked a positive step in providing strong security at nuclear power plants.

NRC commissioner Ed McGaffigan has also responded to suggestions that spent fuel is vulnerable to terrorist actions and should be put into dry storage casks after five years. "Nuclear power reactor spent fuel pools are not soft structures. They are neither easily reached nor easily breached. They are robust structures constructed of very thick concrete walls with stainless steel liners. In addition, other design characteristics of these pools can make them highly resistant to damage and can ease the ability to cope with any damage."

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