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GAO Faults NRC for Oversight of Nuclear Plant Security Plans

September 20, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 38

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is relying too heavily on nuclear power plant owners to verify the adequacy of their terrorism security plans, says a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO-04-1064T). Still, GAO applauds the new requirements enacted by NRC to toughen security requirements for the nation's 103 commercial nuclear power reactors. The new security plans are to be in place by October 2004, but GAO says NRC's oversight of the plans has been mostly a paper exercise, based on a template supplied by industry, which lacks site-specific information. The commission also intends to rely on force-on-force security exercises, but these tests will not be completed for another three years, GAO says, adding the warning that NRC is considering having the exercises conducted by an industry-selected firm, which currently provides guards to half its facilities. The report notes that the plans have been made off-limits to the public because of security constraints, and, therefore, NRC's role in verifying their value is of key importance. The report was offered at a House hearing in which a GAO official said NRC should consider seeking an alternative funding source, rather than relying on industry fees. NRC officials strongly questioned GAO's view, as did an industry spokesman who said the nuclear industry had paid out more than $1 billion and increased security officers from 5,000 to 8,000 to comply with new NRC security measures.


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