August 7, 2002

 

Mr. John A. Zwolinski, Director

Division of Licensing Project Management

Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation

United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Washington, DC 20555-0001

 

 

Dear Mr. Zwolinski:

 

 

Mr. Norm Cohen of The UNPLUG SALEM Campaign asked me to review your letter dated May 16, 2002, which transmitted the proposed Director’s Decision for the 2.206 petition submitted September 17, 2001. Mr. Cohen sought via his petition a number of measures to upgrade safety and security at the Salem, Hope Creek, and Oyster Creek nuclear power plants in New Jersey. Mr. Cohen additionally asked me to provide my comments directly to you because of the impending deadline for comments on the proposed Director’s Decision.

 

First, I frankly do not understand why Mr. Samuel J. Collins rather than Mr. Roy P. Zimmerman is the director making the decision in this matter. Your letter transmitting the proposed Director’s Decision is dated May 16, 2002, or nearly six weeks after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission created the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response (NSIR) on April 7, 2002. Mr. Collins is the Director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR). When Mr. Cohen submitted his petition in September 2001, NRR had responsibility for nuclear plant security. Mr. Glenn M. Tracy and his staff within NRR handled this responsibility. But Mr. Tracy and the majority of his staff moved to NSIR when the NRC reconfigured how it handles nuclear plant security. According to the NRC’s website, NSIR:

Develops overall agency policy and provides management direction for evaluation and assessment of technical issues involving security at nuclear facilities, and is the agency safeguards and security interface with the Office of Homeland Security, the intelligence and law enforcement communities, Department of Energy (DOE), and other agencies. Develops and directs the NRC program for response to incidents, and is the agency incident response interface with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other Federal agencies.

            Thus, the Director of the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response, not the Director o the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, should be the one to decline Mr. Cohen’s security petition. Mr. Collins’s “no” vote on this petition is as irrelevant as my “yes” vote.

 

            Moving to comments on specific portions of the proposed Director’s Decision, pages 6 and 7 discuss the physical protection requirements of 10 CFR 73.55. Missing from this discussion are the following pertinent facts:

 

 

 

 

 

The first paragraph on page 18 provides the NRC’s judgment, based in large part of the absence of “specific credible threats against any NRC-licensed facility since September 11, 2001,” that “the probability of terrorists using a large airliner to successfully damage a nuclear power plant remains acceptability low.” UCS questions the NRC’s judgment on two points. First, the Bush administration repeatedly stated that there were no specific credible threats against the World Trade Center or the Pentagon prior to September 11, 2001. The lack of “specific credible threats” therefore may be true, but it’s hardly relevant. Second, the NRC concedes that US nuclear power plants were not specifically designed to withstand aircraft crashes. From 1980 to 1983, I worked at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Alabama. In 1975, a worker checking for air leaks with a candle in the room beneath the control room accidentally started a fire that burned out of control for nearly six hours, disabling virtually all of the emergency core cooling systems on Unit 1 and many of those systems on Unit 2. While many fire protection upgrades have been made since the Browns Ferry fire, the NRC staff seems to have discounted the potential for a large aircraft laden with jet fuel to do more damage to defense-in-depth than one worker with one candle. This is relevant because Mr. Cohen’s petition sought to address these shortcomings pro-actively, whereas the NRC’s position would wait until after a plant was attacked and then “close the barn door.”

 

The last paragraph on page 19 provides the NRC’s dismissal of Mr. Cohen’s concerns about fires in multiple rooms. The NRC relies in part on access screening, which is insufficient because of the HB Robinson hydrogen near-miss described earlier. The NRC additional relies on the saboteurs being unable to prevent “these fire mitigation systems, fire brigade personnel, and plant operators from responding to and/or extinguishing the fires in a timely manner.” There are numerous flaws in this NRC position, including:

 

 

 

 

Thus, it is rather cavalier for the NRC to dismiss Mr. Cohen’s security concerns without specifically addressing his concerns for the potential scenarios.

 

Pages 27 to 30 contain the NRC’s response to Mr. Cohen’s petition calling for increased force-on-force testing by the NRC. Missing from the NRC’s response is this fact – on September 10, 2001, the NRC had plans for fourteen (14) force-on-force security tests at US nuclear power plants during Fiscal Year 2002, six Operational Safeguards Readiness Evaluations (OSREs) by NRC and eight Safeguards Performance Assessments (SPAs) by licensees. No force-on-force security test has been conducted since September 11, 2001. Thus, a measure thought prudent when America was at peace was discarded by NRC now that America has declared war on terrorism (and vice-versa). Rather than show off it’s mathematical prowess (page 28), the NRC should conduct force-on-force tests as requested by Mr. Cohen.

 

On page 28, the NRC describes the rigor of its currently-abandoned force-on-force security tests and states “The NRC staff is not aware of any comparable performance testing of security measures for any other type of commercial industrial facilities.” So what? Is the NRC staff aware of any other type of commercial industrial facilities that are so hazardous that they require federal liability protection, as the nuclear industry does under the Price-Anderson Act? If so, than the disparity in security testing rigor would be relevant. If not, the point is pointless. The NRC talks a lot about providing protection commensurate with the risk. The fact that nuclear power plants are the most hazardous commercial industrial facilities in the US of A clearly warrant their getting more than K-Mart security protection.


In conclusion, as an absolute minimum, the NRC should have Mr. Roy Zimmerman issue the Final Director’s Decision in this 2.206 petition. He is the Director of the appropriate office, not Mr. Collins.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

David Lochbaum

Nuclear Safety Engineer

Washington Office

 

 

 



[1] Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Preliminary Notification PNO-II-89-04, “Flammable Mixture of Hydrogen in H.B. Robinson’s Station Air System,” January 9, 1989.