Nuclear Control Institute * Committee to Bridge the Gap
November 6, 1995
The Honorable Shirley Jackson
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Cornmission
Washington, D.C. 20555
Dear Dr. Jackson:
We are writing with regard to the August 1, 1994 rule on protection of nuclear power plants against the malevolent use of vehicles.
This is a matter of significant concern, as a vehicle containing conventional explosives could cause sufficient damage to a nuclear facility to produce substantial releases of radioactivity. A 1984 study performed for the Commission by Sandia National Laboratory found that a truck bomb could cause "unacceptable damage" to a nuclear power plant (i.e., resulting in potential for significant radiation release), even if detonated off-site. Vehicle bombs have been used extensively for terrorist acts in the last decade. Until last year, however, NRC regulations did not require protection against vehicle bombs.
Our involvement in this matter spans nearly a decade of efforts to obtain an enhanced security rule. In recent years it included extensive correspondence with Dr. Selin and a meeting with him early in the process of the Commission's upgrading of security requirements against vehicle bombs and vehicle intrusion. In addition to this interaction, the Commission provided several opportunities for public access and comment, including open Commission meetings and a forum for non-governmental organizations and other interested members of the public. Unfortunately, the avenues for public involvement appear to have been closed following adoption of the rule, even though there are important unresolved issues in connection with the implementation of the rule and related issues.
Perhaps the most pressing issue is whether the current design-basis threat (DBT) contemplates a bomb the size of the one used in the destruction of the federal building in Oklahoma City and, more generally, whether the DBT provides a "cushion" above the largest known vehicle bomb. A closely related issue is whether licensees are on schedule to implement the new protection requirements by the February 1996 deadline and what adjustments, if any, they have voluntarily made to the NRC requirements in response to the Oklahoma City bombing.
We recognize that certain aspects of the issue involve safeguards information and therefore may not be appropriate for public discussion. But the public surely has a right, for example, to be assured that the Commission is taking the necessary steps to ensure that power plants are adequately protected against the equivalent of an Oklahoma City bomb. Broad policy issues, as well as many of the specifics, can and should be discussed openly, as they were during the formulation of the truck-bomb rule. But the public was not permitted to participate in, or even attend, any part of the meetings on the rulers implementation during the week of October 22, and, as far as we aware, there is no corresponding forum for public input into the ongoing review and implementation of the rule. (The unclassified summary of the meetings mentioned in the October 16 Federal Register notice, while it may provide useful information, does not constitute an adequate level of public involvement.)
Of equal concern, it was not until we received Dr. Selin's June 21 letter that we learned of the Commission's September 1994 decision regarding the "Phase 2" reassessment - namely, that no changes in the DBT were to be required in attributes of the DBT such as the type of equipment and weaponry and the number of attackers. The current DBT regulations on these matters were established nearly twenty years ago. They have not been upgraded since, despite the substantial increase in the sophistication and violence of terrorist incidents, including acts within the United States. We therefore strongly disagree with the decision not to upgrade the DBT to reflect the changing times.
We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the review and implementation of the truck-bomb rule, as well as the results of the Phase 2 reevaluation.
We look forward to your response on this important matter.
Nuclear Control Institute
Committee to Bridge the Gap
cc: The Commissioners
Senator Joseph Lieberman
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