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Groups Urge Senate Action on Nuclear Security

Sept. 17, 2002

Groups Urge Senate Action on Nuclear Security

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress should enact legislation to address security concerns at nuclear power plants, national environmental and public interest groups said today. Eleven groups circulated a letter to U.S. senators urging immediate action.

“One full year after the tragedies of last September, Congress has not enacted any legislation to mandate improvements in security at commercial nuclear facilities. This appalling situation leaves the public vulnerable,” the groups wrote. “We strenuously urge the Senate to address these pressing nuclear security concerns before adjournment.”

The letter was endorsed by Friends of the Earth, GRACE Public Fund, Greenpeace, Nuclear Control Institute, Nuclear Information & Resource Service, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Citizen, Safe Energy Communication Council, STAR Foundation, Union of Concerned Scientists and Women’s Action for New Directions. Click here to view the letter online.

Nuclear plant owners have known of their vulnerabilities to terrorist attack, and recent news articles have reported that Al Qaeda specifically discussed bombing nuclear facilities. Not only are nuclear power plants not designed to withstand the type of attack experienced on Sept. 11, 2001, but nearly half of the facilities tested under the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Operational Safeguards Response Evaluations (OSRE) program between 1991 and 2001 had serious vulnerabilities identified. A report released last week by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) found that since Sept. 11, security forces at nuclear power plants are undermanned, underequipped and undertrained.

Although the U.S. House of Representatives included nuclear security provisions when it reauthorized the Price-Anderson Act last year, and although the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved the Nuclear Security Act in July, energy conferees last week rejected proposals to include security provisions to the nuclear title of the energy bill (H.R. 4). The Homeland Security Act, currently being debated by the Senate, is similarly silent on security at nuclear power plants.

“Given the current focus on national security, how can lawmakers ignore the unacceptable risks posed by nuclear power plants?” asked Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “Congress must not allow another year to lapse without taking action on this urgent matter.”