U.S. Nuclear Plants Vulnerable to Terrorist Attack
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As the twelfth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, most of the nuclear facilities in the United States remain unprotected against credible terrorist threats, including the theft of bomb-grade material and sabotage that can cause a deadly reactor meltdown.
This is astonishing considering the bipartisan 9/11 Commission Report revealed years ago that the terrorists who hijacked the commercial airliners considered crashing at least one into a nuclear plant in the New York area. The report explains that Mohamed Atta, who piloted one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center “considered targeting a nuclear facility he had seen during familiarization flights near New York.”
Logic would indicate that nuclear facilities need to be protected because they’re on the radar of Islamic terrorists. Incredibly, the U.S. government has not taken this credible threat seriously and doesn’t require adequate security for the nation’s 107 reactors. Most are dangerously vulnerable to an attack, according to a study performed for the Pentagon by the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas, Austin.
The most vulnerable facilities are in California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Get this; the Maryland plant, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), sits in Gaithersburg just 25 miles from the nation’s capital and houses bomb-grade uranium. The other unprotected facilities that deal with bomb-grade uranium are at the University of Missouri in Columbia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
Some of the nuclear power plants are vulnerable to terrorist attacks from the sea, but they too are not required to protect against those threats, the study found. Those facilities include Diablo Canyon in California, St. Lucie in Florida, Brunswick in North Carolina, Surry in Virginia, Indian Point in New York, Millstone in Connecticut, Pilgrim in Massachusetts, and the South Texas Project.
Three reactors fueled with bomb-grade uranium are extremely vulnerable to theft by terrorists constructing nuclear weapons, according to the findings. Incredibly, none have the type of security required to defend against such a threat, while military facilities that hold the same material are protected. The academic who conducted the study expressed disbelief that these facilities remain unprotected against a 9/11-scale terrorist attack though it’s a “realistic” threat.
“It would be a tragedy if the United States had to look back after such an attack on a nuclear reactor and say that we could have and should have done more to prevent the catastrophe,” said Alan J. Kuperman, the coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project. “We know where the weak spots are when it comes to nuclear facilities, so it would be the height of irresponsibility to fail to take action now.”