Pentagon says Pilgrim among most vulnerable U.S. nukes

Pentagon says Pilgrim among most vulnerable nuke plants – Quincy, MA – The Patriot Ledger

PLYMOUTH — A new report commissioned by the Pentagon highlights the vulnerability of nuclear power plants nationwide to terrorist attacks and points specifically to the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth as one of eight plants most at risk for a terrorist strike from the water.

The 33-page report from the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin criticized federal agencies for failing to ratchet up security requirements at civilian, military and research nuclear reactors, increasing the risk of sabotage or theft by terrorists.

“Terrorists could equally target the critical parts of U.S. nuclear reactors adjacent to bodies of water,” the report states.

Authors of the report faulted the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for not protecting plants that take in seawater to cool their reactors. And the report called for installation of floating barriers at the seaside nuclear plants – similar to ones used by the U.S. Navy to protect anchored ships and nuclear submarines.

Pilgrim’s owner, Entergy Corp., disputed the report’s claims about inadequate security.

“Pilgrim has spent millions of dollars on enhanced security infrastructure since 9/11, and the site is one of the most secure and hardened nonmilitary facilities in the world,” Entergy spokeswoman Carol Wightman said in an emailed statement Friday.

But the report’s authors wrote that despite the nuclear industry spending $2 billion in security enhancements since 2001, facilities are still vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

One of the sources for the report, Peter Stockton, a senior investigator at the Project on Government Oversight in Washington, D.C., said threat assessments for nuclear facilities underestimate the number of potential terrorist adversaries and the lethality of weapons that could be used.

After the 9/11 attacks, the NRC system for assessing terrorist threat increased the possible number of attackers from three to six, but Stockton said nuclear plants need to be ready for triple that number.

“And multiple .50-caliber sniper rifles can penetrate the bullet-resistant enclosures (at these facilities),” Stockton said.

Plymouth Selectman Belinda Brewster said local police briefed on security measures at Pilgrim have assured town leaders that Pilgrim is secure against terrorism.

And although Brewster had not yet read the report, she criticized it for naming nuclear plants thought to be vulnerable.

“I find it to be irresponsible of them to say and put an even bigger target on our backs,” Brewster said Friday.

Pilgrim Watch founder Mary Lampert of Duxbury, one of the plant’s most vocal critics, welcomed the Pentagon-commissioned report.

“This is disconcerting when you see Homeland Security money is spent to protect small shopping malls in the middle of nowhere, and Pilgrim, a pre-deployed nuclear weapon, does not have greater security,” Lampert said Friday. or follow on Twitter @Burrell_Ledger.

Chris Burrell may be reached at or follow on Twitter @Burrell_Ledger.

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