BLUE RIDGE ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE LEAGUE
Post-9/11 Terrorism Measures Not Applicable to Dukes 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 NRCs 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 Dukes 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 NRCs 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.
BREDLs 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.
BREDLs 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 Commissions 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.