The Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Shirley Jackson has reinstated a programme the NRC cancelled in September, testing nuclear power plants’ ability to withstand a terrorist attack.

However, Jackson said the agency would re-examine the security programme, in which NRC teams conduct mock attacks on US nuclear facilities, to meet some of the concerns expressed by the industry.

NRC spokesmen had cited budget considerations as reasons for terminating the programme, but the decision drew sharp criticism from the National Security Council.

The NRC has come under pressure not to relax testing of security programmes as the Clinton administration plans to use commercial reactors to dispose of plutonium in mixed oxide (MOX) fuel from disassembled Cold War weapons.

At least three consortia have reportedly bid to run commercial reactors on MOX fuel.

One team that announced a bid comprises Duke Engineering & Services, Cogema Inc, Stone & Webster, Belgonucleaire, Framatome Cogema Fuels, Nuclear Fuel Services and Electricité de France. Under the group’s plan, the MOX fuel would be burned at Duke Power’s Catawba and McGuire and Virginia Power’s North Anna nuclear plants.

Two other consortia are reported to have submitted bids:

• Siemens Power Corp, Raytheon, Battelle, Washington Public Power Supply System and PECO Energy.

• British Nuclear Fuels, Babcock & Wilcox and Bechtel.

DOE has already selected its Savannah River Site as the preferred location for fabricating MOX fuel. The DOE says commercial reactors could be using MOX fuel by 2007.