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Lay of the Land

Canada Fights Global Warming | Homer at the Helm | Fuel Economy Decline | W Watch | San Joaquin Valley Air Quality | California Marine Reserve | Bold Strokes| For the Record | Green Elephants | Loggers Against Logging | Sprawl | Little Chips, Big Impact | Updates

Homer at the Helm

By Kim Todd

Guards falling asleep on the job, training with flashlights and whistles rather than weapons, unsure of whether to shoot or run–the portrait of nuclear security that emerges in a recent report seems more like an episode of The Simpsons than an effective anti-terrorist strategy.

Since September 11, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has called for increased security at the nation’s 65 nuclear power plants. But in many cases, the companies merely upped overtime rather than hiring new guards, according to Nuclear Power Plant Security: Voices From Inside the Fences, a report by the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight. Equipment is outdated, training drills are infrequent and inadequate, and the guards themselves are exhausted from working 12-hour shifts for five or six days straight.

Currently, nuclear plants are only required to be able to defend against three terrorists armed with pistols, rifles, and other handheld weapons and coming in at the same entrance. This scenario is unrealistic, according to one of the guards interviewed for the report. "In a real attack, if the terrorists use snipers, grenade launchers, and automatic weapons, we wouldn’t have a chance."

Despite such concerns, the Bush administration is trying to restart the nuclear power industry, promising a new nuke by 2010 and many more in quick succession. Meanwhile, it has quashed plans for a wind farm in Nevada, citing–what else?–potential terrorist threats.

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