Monday, January 29, 2007

Passing The Buck

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has taken a look at requiring nuclear power plants to install defense systems to provide protection from a 9/11 style attack from flying aircraft into the containment domes of reactors and decided to take a pass at defending from such attacks. From The Columbus Dispatch:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday that nuclear power plant operators should not be expected to stop terrorists from crashing an airliner into a reactor, saying that responsibility lies elsewhere.

Plant operators instead should focus on limiting radioactive releases and public exposure from any such airborne attack, the agency said in a revised defense plan for America's nuclear plants.

"The active protection against airborne threats is addressed by other federal organizations, including the military," the NRC said in a statement.

This is simply the wrong thing to do. In the event of such an attack, neither the FAA nor the military is going to have a fast enough response time to foil it. If terrorists decide to use such an attack, it will likely differ from the events of 9/11.

The days of taking over a commercial aircraft are over. There are too many operational hurdles in place now such as air marshals and let's face it, you would have to kill everyone on the plane now because nobody is just going to sit back and let you fly the plane into something.

Future aircraft style attacks are much more likely to be carried out by taking over an airfreight jet by hiding in the cargo and taking out the pilots, or even more likely from a small private passenger jet packed with explosives. In these type of attacks, it is very likely that the attackers would be well within reach of the targets before we had any idea what was going on.

It is a huge mistake for the NRC to pass this on to other organizations. What will be their responsibilities? From the Dispatch:

It said that various mitigation strategies required of plant operators - such as radiation protection measures and evacuation plans - "are sufficient to ensure adequate protection of the public health and safety" in case of an airborne attack.

So much for being pro-active. I have to wonder how much lobbying was done to put the cost to operators over the safety of the American people.

And by the way, nothing emboldens a terrorist more than a weak spot in our defenses.

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