The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has said that it will soon issue orders to all commercial nuclear plants and other key nuclear facilities to upgrade security measures.

The details of the requirements will not be disclosed, but they include such things as additional personnel access controls; enhanced requirements for guard forces; increased stand-off distances for searches of vehicles approaching nuclear facilities; and heightened coordination with appropriate local, State and Federal authorities.

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the NRC has issued more than 20 recommended security measures, but this will be the first time the agency requires mandatory, rather than voluntary, action.

Ralph Beedle, chief nuclear officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute said that “the NRC’s action formalises security practices already in place.” He added: “I’m greatly pleased to be able to inform the American people that the nuclear energy industry continues to do everything we can to improve security preparedness at the nation’s nuclear plants.” The NRC announcement came 10 days after Tom Ridge, the director of the recently-created Office of Homeland Security, opposed the idea of federalising nuclear power plant security. In an interview with NBC, Ridge said: “There’s a role here for the federal government working with the private sector to raise the level of standards of security, but…it’s not the federalisation of that work force.”

• Meanwhile, the NRC has issued the “United States of America National Report for the Convention on Nuclear Safety.” The report describes the government’s fulfillment of its obligations under the Convention, and demonstrates how the US achieves a high level of safety at its nuclear plants.
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