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FEBRUARY 19, 2004

Janet Zeller (336) 982-2691
Louis Zeller (704) 756-7550
Diane Curran (202) 329-3500
Edwin Lyman (202) 223-6133

Post-9/11 Terrorism Measures Not Applicable to Duke’s Plutonium Fuel

NRC Chooses Secrecy Over Security

Yesterday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that confidential NRC upgrades to the security requirements for nuclear power plants and plutonium processing facilities, imposed after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, have “nothing to do” with a proposed license amendment that would allow Duke Energy Corporation to use bomb-grade plutonium at the Catawba nuclear power plant. Moreover, the NRC stated that “those orders do not impose immutable requirements, but are subject to change depending on updated assessments of the terrorist threat.”

The NRC’s announcement came as a shock to Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (“BREDL”), which seeks a hearing before the NRC on a number of safety and security issues, including the adequacy of Duke’s security plan to protect the plutonium that will be used at the site.

Janet Zeller, Executive Director of BREDL, called the decision “outrageous.” The post-9/11 security standards are “far from irrelevant,” she asserted. “Without understanding the NRC’s post-9/11 security requirements, our expert cannot evaluate, in any meaningful way, whether the new security measures Duke proposes are adequate to meet those standards and protect plutonium from theft.” Added Anti-Plutonium Campaign Director Lou Zeller, “it also causes us grave concern to learn suddenly that the post-9/11 standards could be dropped or changed at any time.”

BREDL’s security expert, Dr. Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, added that Duke Energy is planning to store around 80 kilograms of plutonium, enough for 10-20 nuclear bombs.

BREDL’s attorney, Diane Curran, noted that the decision was the result of an attempt by BREDL to gain access to confidential post-9/11 security standards that the NRC has made available only to the nuclear industry. “The NRC is pretending that the events of September 11 are irrelevant, so that it can deny BREDL access to information about the rigor of the post-9/11 upgrades. This decision is a sign that the Commission’s greatest motive for the shroud of secrecy that has surrounded its post-9/11 security upgrades is its reluctance to reveal how little it has done to increase the security of nuclear facilities.”