Fission Stories #53: Read Between the Lines

, former director, Nuclear Safety Project | August 16, 2011, 6:00 am EDT
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On June 21, 2010, the owner of the FitzPatrick nuclear plant near Oswego, New York informed the NRC that two cabinets containing information about the plant’s security measures was found to be unlocked. According to the report, “if actually compromised, the contents of the cabinets could have significantly aided an adversary in the commission of an act of radiological sabotage.” The company instituted a number of measures intended to ensure that cabinets containing security information would be properly locked in the future.A somewhat similar problem happened back in September 1992, when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) sold some office equipment at its Sequoyah nuclear plant near Chattanooga, Tennessee to a local church. One of the items delivered to the church was a locked file cabinet. When church officials later cut off the lock with bolt cutters, they found the cabinet filled with information about security measures at Sequoyah. They called TVA, who came and retrieved the security records.

The NRC fined TVA $50,000 for this violation of security regulations. TVA lost money on the deal – the church did not pay more than $50,000 for the file cabinet.

Our Takeaway

Federal regulations require information about nuclear plant security measures be kept under lock and key. Although not explicitly stated, the regulations imply that you cannot then give away the locked file cabinet, even if you keep the key.

“Fission Stories” is a weekly feature by Dave Lochbaum. For more information on nuclear power safety, see the nuclear safety section of UCS’s website and our interactive map, the Nuclear Power Information Tracker.

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