Lack of Security at Nuclear Plants Disturbing

April 12, 2017 The findings of a Government Accountability Office Investigation (GAO) published on Tuesday concluded that holes in physical security at U.S. nuclear plants puts the nation at risk for terrorists seeking nuclear materials to make “dirty bombs.”

The watchdog group found physical security that U.S. Department of Energy facilities where special nuclear materials are stored are in need of physical security such as fences, alarms, and sensors.

The GAO investigators found that while information was current and accessible to Congress, reports on DOE facilities holding special nuclear materials such as highly enriched uranium — did not meet federal standards of providing complete information on assessments used to certify that sites are secure and were not provided to Congress in a timely manner.

Nuclear threats were largely ignored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other agencies until Japan’s nuclear disaster at Fukushima in March, 2011. The Fukushima Diiachi plant disaster prompted a closer look at how United States nuclear reactors are maintained. The findings of reports on U.S. nuclear plant management, oversight, maintainance and site security without exception have evidenced the U.S. remains woefully unprepared for a nuclear disaster or attack.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing process in 2015 and 2016 evidenced how easy it was to obtain licenses and purchase nuclear material using fake names and documents. GAO investigators rented storefronts and used fake names to obtained licenses that allowed them to obtain AmBe, an aggregated category 2 quantity of nuclear material.

There have been numerous independent reports alleging misconduct by top officials at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The agency has a reputation for sloppy record-keeping, and not following through to ensure violations are corrected even if they are recorded.

An after-action report by an independent Japanese investigatory body found that the Fukushima Daiichi incident in 2011 was entirely foreseeable – and perhaps even preventable. The plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) failed to meet basic safety regulations like performing risk assessments and preparing for the containment of collateral damage. Investigators also determined that in an effort to cut corners, TEPCO managment scrimped on costly evacuation plans.

In the fifteen years since 9/11, dozens of reports have revealed that the threat of nuclear disaster on American soil is real and weak security measures, according to terrorism experts shows there is nothing standing between a determined terrorist and the nuclear weapons materials inside of U.S. nuclear plants. The system is blinking red.

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