Nuclear reactors are sitting-duck targets, poorly protected and vulnerable to sabotage or attack. If their radioactive inventories were released in the event of a serious attack, hundreds of thousands of people could die immediately, or later, due to radiation sickness or latent cancers. Vast areas of the U.S. could become national sacrifice zones - an outcome too serious to risk. Beyond Nuclear advocates for the shutdown of nuclear power.



NRC OI whitewashes Entergy harassment against security whisteblowers at Palisades

As reported by the Holland Sentinel, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Office of Investigations' has dropped any further action stemming from allegations raises by fired Palisades security department supervisors and guards. The whistleblowers allege that they were harassed, and eventually terminated, by Entergy for raising security concerns and raising alarms about regulatory violations.

Michigan Radio has also reported on this story.


Will Entergy clean up its act at Palisades' security department?

Don't Waste Michigan board members Michael Keegan, Alice Hirt, and Kevin Kamps call for Palisades' permanent shutdown at the 2000 Nuclear-Free Great Lakes Action Camp, on the Lake Michigan beach at Van Buren State Park, with the atomic reactor's cooling tower steam visible in the backgroundJudging by Entergy's several years worth of security failures at Palisades, and breaches going back over a decade at other Entergy nuclear power plants such as Indian Point near New York City, the answer to that question is quite dubious.

Beyond Nuclear has published a backgrounder chronicling Entergy security problems at Palisades and Indian Point, and the lethal, and potentially catastrophic risks, at stake. See the PDF, as well as the Word version (containing live links to various documents cited).

The backgrounder was prompted by an NRC Confirmatory Order that went into effect on August 22nd.


"GAO: N-weapons sites need a ‘clear vision’ on security"

As reported at Frank Munger's Atomic City Underground blog at the Knoxville News:

"Efforts to reform security activities and cut costs at the nuclear weapons sites in the 2009-2012 timeframe have been among the things blamed for the July 28, 2012 security breach at Y-12. In a new report released today, the Government Accountability Office takes a look at what the National Nuclear Security Administration has done to address security and what it should be doing.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

“After the Y-12 security breach, NNSA took a  number of actions designed to improve its security performance and oversight but did so without first developing a clear vision and path forward for its security program and an implementation strategy, including milestones and responsibilities for carrying them out . . . ”

For the purposes of this evaluation, GAO visited three NNSA sites — Lawrence Livermore, Pantex and the Nevada National Security Site – and contacted the other sites, including Y-12, by telephone, according to the report.

In a May 20 response to the 37-page report, NNSA Administrator Frank G. Klotz noted the GAO’s recommendation that NNSA develop a “road map” for security, and Klotz said such an effort is already under way, with a scheduled completion date of Dec. 31, 2014."


Fired security guard whistleblowers speak out against Palisades at NRC meeting

As reported by the Kalamazoo Gazette and Michigan Radio, three security guard force whistleblowers spoke out at a Nuclear Regulatory Commission public meeting last night, alleging that they were terminated from Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor because they raised safety and security concerns.

The attorney representing two of the three whistle blowers, Billie Pirner Garde of Washington, D.C., phoned into the meeting as well.

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps, as well as members of Michigan Safe Energy Future, and other concerned local residents, also spoke out at the meeting.

Kevin discussed a long list of security failures at Palisades, including a scandal involving the chief of security exposed by Esquire magazine in 2007, as well as incidents in 2002: a security guard suffering a nervous breakdown on the job, while armed, after having been forced to work 72 hours per week for a solid year; and three suspicious cars penetrating deep into Palisades, but driving off without ever being stopped, because Palisades security guard force phoned the wrong local law enforcement agency, resulting in a 45 minute delay in response.

Remarkably, nearly 12 years after POGO first warned about security weaknesses at Entergy's Indian Point nuclear power plant near New York City, Entergy's security failures continue today, as at Palisades.

At a recent meeting with NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane, Kevin objected to NRC Region 3 Office of Public Affairs spokesman Viktoria Mytling expressing agency support for a state bill in Michigan granting immunity to nuclear power plant security guards for lethal shootings. The sponsor of the bill has been quoted warning environmentalists that they should think twice before protesting at nuclear plants.

The coalition also expressed concern to Chairman Macfarlane about the recipe for disaster of Palisades problem-plagued security guard force now being granted immunity for fatal shootings, with a state park immediately to the north, and a resort community immediately to the south. In addition, the State of Michigan has established a waterway trail on Lake Michigan, encouraging kayakers to travel past Palisades. Although there are buoys in the Lake demarcating Palisades' property, there is no signage warning boaters that they are entering a zone where use of lethal force is authorized.

WOOD TV and WSBT TV also reported on last night's NRC meeting.


Chinese military cyber-attack hacks Westinghouse nuclear secrets; How vulnerable are US reactors to "offensive cyber-inovations"?

The U.S. Justice Department has indicted five members of China’s Peoples Liberation Army on charges of economic espionage and cyber-theft. The Chinese military officers allegedly hacked into company computers and stole an estimated $100 billion in trade secrets from Westinghouse Nuclear Division and other leading U.S. steel and solar power firms. The federal grand jury indictments against a foreign country on cyber-security charges are unprecedented.  The Pittsburgh, PA-based Westinghouse Nuclear Division was in the middle of a huge nuclear technology transfer for the construction of its AP1000 nuclear power plants in China when it was announced that the Chinese military was at the same time stealing propriety information about the reactor technology and Westinghouse’s negotiation strategies.  At the same time, China is ambitiously establishing itself as a global leader in the marketing of nuclear power technology with its own nuclear reactor design based largely on the AP1000 pressurized water reactor.

The grand jury indictments focus on the cyber-theft of industrial secrets aimed at gaining an international competitive edge over “fair trade” with the U.S.-based companies. However, the discovery raises long standing and on-going national security, public health and safety concerns associated with the potential for large scale military cyber-attacks against vulnerable critical infrastructure, particularly a vast patchwork electrical grid system and inherently dangerous nuclear power plants.  U.S. nuclear power plants initially rely upon the offsite electrical grid to power all of the onsite reactor safety systems.  A standoff cyber-attack not only can shutdown the electrical production from nuclear reactors but target internal components where failure leads to radiological catastrophe. “Offensive cyber-innovations” aimed at destroying nuclear infrastructure and internal systems are not unprecedented. In 2010, the United States and Israel conducted a joint cyber-attack code-named “Olympic Games” where the Stuxnet computer worm disabled Iran’s nuclear program by ruining roughly one-fifth of its German-made uranium enrichment centrifuges.