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Oct 01, 2008


You know, at least guards chatting on the phone are awake.



Thanks for your opinion, however contradictory it may seem.

If seconds dictate the difference between success or defeat, as you claim in your first paragraph, the defenders have already lost. As you rightly point out in your next to last paragraph, the outside responders will arrive somewhere between a pizza delivery to hours or more.

The objective is not to defeat the attackers but to buy time, if necessary with lives. A few seconds gearing up well within the perimeter is not going to matter one way or another.

The industry has chosen to weigh the worst case consequences of a terrorist attack (radiation release, public panic, chance of offsite casualties) against what is seen as the remote likelihood of an attack (which has never yet happened) on a US nuclear power facility. I'm not terribly comfortable with where the line has been drawn, and I don't think the public should be either.

To address your specifics:

1) I believe the analogy to firefighters is apt, twice over. First of all, firefighters respond to relatively rare events. 80% of all fire calls are now medical emergencies; so their "reason to exist," fighting fires, actually occupies a fairly small part (but an absolutely vital one!) of their time. Preparedness, training, basic maintenance and field inspections take up the bulk of non-call time for firefighters -- just as it does for the nuclear guard. Since there hasn't been a 'real' terrorist attack yet, nuclear guards have only defended against mock attacks.

As for the seriousness, firefighters respond to major industrial accidents every day -- and would in fact be the lead off-site responders to any nuclear event which left the plant site. In California we routinely have wildfires that require hundreds of firefighters to respond. Many chemical plants could be far more dangerous to public safety, with much less of a response force. We are irrationally afraid of radiation in ways that we are not afraid, but should be, of "common" chemicals such as chlorine.

2) You seem dubious that people can wake up suddenly to deal with crisis situations. Firefighters and soldiers (and sometimes police, who shouldn't) do this all the time. The argument that firefighters have time to wake up during the drive to the call is specious. Do you want asleep firefighters driving Code 3 in heavy trucks full of water driving around corners? Or the fire captain planning his initial attack in between snores?

3) Do you really think the ready room does not have communications in addition to the radios?

Tired people given nothing to do and the freedom to do so will nap or sleep. This is a human factor and must be countered by appropriate procedural, technological and management controls.

The utilities cannot blame sleeping guards for everything.

I'm a little more alarmed by credible reports that fire safety regulations are routinely being ignored at many power facilities. This is one factor that no guard force can do anything about.

Here is some public information on the subject:




John J.

In response to Andrews…. “Using your same logic,….” How about this for logic…. Wackenhut Security Officers or any Security Force has very precious few seconds to respond to a security threat at a nuclear power facility. When you consider what they may have to defend against, seconds may dictate success or defeat.

These officers are not Firemen or tasked with anything remotely similar to the mission of a Fireman. The loss of life and property that could result as a result of a successful terrorist attack on a nuclear facility far outweighs what a Fire Department would deal with. A Fireman also has several minutes to wake up while traveling to a fire. A Security Officer at a nuclear power facility has to hear his/her radio telling them that an attack on the facility is occurring. If they miss it because they are asleep or talking on a cell phone the result is a layer of defense being compromised. As we know, Wackenhut Security Officers have been identified sleeping in groups and I can’t imagine only one of them uses a phone. How many layers of defense are compromised each shift?

Firemen can back away from a blaze if overcome. Security Forces at nuclear facilities only have one chance at success and they cannot back up! Keep this in mind, the Calvary, Police, National Guard or anyone else will not arrive in time to save them. Just ask a State Trooper assigned to an area around a nuclear power facility, “how long do you think it will take you guy’s to get to that nuclear power plant and defend it from a terrorist attack?” After he/she stops looking blank or laughing they will tell you it’s not happening! By the time they get there, win or loose, it is all over!

I wouldn’t be too quick to be pointing out references to Reaction Forces. It only highlights how a person speaking with complete confidence can still be ignorant.


Using your same logic, I suppose that firefighters are not fully prepared to respond to structure fires. I mean, half the time they're asleep -- or out grocery shopping -- or chatting on their cell phones, sometimes to their lovers. Not to mention working under their trucks and getting greasy, sharpening tools and chainsaws, and doing other things that distract their attention from . . . oh, wait, all those things are OK for firefighters to do. (What about volunteer firefighters, who are doing other things ALL THE TIME between page-outs?!?)

These are highly secure facilities. The officers being disciplined for inattention are not in guard towers or standing at front gates. Does the concept of "reaction force" ring a bell? Did POGO "get the word" from a mandatory public disclosure required by NRC regulations?

Much of the information about how a nuclear power facility is protected is available to the public on the NRC Web site. If you read through it, which I would expect an "expert" to take the time to do, you will see that there are in fact multiple layers of redundancy to prevent a single human error from endangering the facility. This is standard nuclear industry practice, not just in nuclear security. There was a breach at Peach Bottom, but the breach was in management practices not physical security. The guard who took the pictures was stonewalled by his management and in desperation took video in secure areas of the plant to prove that there was a problem. Unacceptable! The exact opposite of feeling free to bring up issues and problems, which is where POGO and similar groups can be really helpful.

There was no breach at Y-12 -- but you're right, Y-12 is such a serious place that even minor issues demand serious attention. The change of one word ("power" to "weapons") makes a world of difference.

I agree that there should be strong contractor oversight. I'm not thrilled that so much about nuclear security practices is available to the general public. However, I would think that POGO and other industry watchdogs should at least take advantage of the information. Rest assured that adversaries do.

Come on Jeff, these guards were contracted. There's a whole lot of overhead hours that goes into every hour of a government contract day!


Whoops, good catch...we meant to say 1,000 minutes a month, not hours. It's corrected above. Thanks!



You had me there for a minute.....until I did some simple math and figured out that there are only 744 hours in a 31 day month. I don't think even guards can talk overtime and rack up 1000 hours of phone calls in a month. You guys should check your sources of information better than that if you want any credibility.....and do a little math. Try it yourself at home or on your computer....24 times 31 is 744.

Sign me,


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