US Nuke Plant Faced
Terrorist Threat
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An American nuclear power plant recently was the target of a terrorist threat, according to a letter from the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that was made public by a Democratic lawmaker Friday.
Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey, a frequent critic of the nuclear agency, said the threat was revealed to him in a May 3 letter from NRC Chairwoman Shirley Ann Jackson.
The letter also addressed the Democrat's concerns about anti-terrorism protection for nuclear facilities.
The NRC did not identify which nuclear plant was targeted for attack or elaborate on the incident.
``We can't release that information because it's classified and came from intelligence sources,'' an agency spokesman told Reuters.
The threat was ``general in nature,'' and the time frame for the threatened attack passed without a problem, the NRC said.
There are currently some 103 operating nuclear power plants in the country.
One of the many questions posed by Markey to the NRC asked if there had been any recent credible threats of terrorism or sabotage against U.S. nuclear plants.
``During recent months, one reported threat was assessed as having low but sufficient credibility to warrant an NRC threat advisory,'' the NRC responded in the letter.
Markey has often complained that the NRC does not do enough to protect nuclear facilities. Last year he objected to the cancellation of the Operational Safeguards Response Evaluation (OSRE) program, which was later reinstated.
``This letter gives no evidence that the NRC followed its own objectives of risk-informed regulation when it temporarily eliminated this counter-terrorism program,'' Markey said in a statement.
``As our bombers attack both Serbia and Iraq, we must be vigilant that our nuclear plants are able to defend themselves and prevent a catastrophic nuclear event,'' he added.
Jackson said the safeguards program was one of many systems in place to protect plants from attack. She also acknowledged that a tight agency budget has forced difficult decisions on safety programs.
Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry trade group, said every U.S. nuclear plant has safeguards in place against intrusions.
In 1993 a man was able to breach security at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, causing industry-wide safety reviews.
Last year, training drills at 57 U.S. nuclear sites revealed security weaknesses at half of the locations, Markey said. Some 14 of the plants had ``severe'' security breaches in mock attacks, endangering core reactor operations that could prompt radioactive releases.