Aug. 4, 2008 - Markey, Clinton Call for Enhanced Security for U.S. Nuclear Facilities and Dirty Bomb

Neglecting Needed Upgrades Could Lead to Disaster 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation, and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), member of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, announced new legislation to enhance and ensure the security of our nation’s nuclear materials and facilities.

Rep. Markey said, "We know from Al Qaeda admissions and intelligence reports that terrorists are trying desperately to build dirty bombs or homemade nuclear weapons. We also know that a nuclear reactor has been a desired Al Qaeda target. Unfortunately, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the nuclear industry continue to act as if these threats are somehow merely theoretical. This complacency breeds neglect, and neglect could breed disaster."


Sen. Clinton said, "We have made progress in securing nuclear plants and nuclear materials that can be used to make a dirty bomb, but we need to do even more to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks that would exploit nuclear hazards. That is why Congressman Markey and I introduced the Dirty Bomb Prevention Act in 2002, why I have continued to press the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to improve nuclear plant security, and why I am proud to introduce this legislation today. This bill will improve safety and security at both existing and proposed nuclear power plants, and will improve tracking and security of radioactive material that could be used to make a dirty bomb."


On the House side, the legislation has been introduced as H.R. 6816, "The Nuclear Facility and Materials Security Act of 2008". H.R. 6816 covers a broad spectrum of nuclear security issues, including:


  • Requiring that any new reactors built in this country be designed to withstand the impact of a large commercial aircraft;
  • Requiring that spent fuel from nuclear reactors be stored in the safest manner possible while in the spent fuel pool, for the fuel to be moved to dry storage as soon as possible, and upgrading the security requirements for spent fuel storage facilities;
  • Requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to implement long-standing statutory requirements to distribute life-saving anti-radiation pills (potassium iodide or KI pills) to communities within 20 miles of our nation's nuclear power plants;
  • Requiring that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission abide by a recent court decision that directed that before new or revised licenses for nuclear reactors are granted, that the potential consequences of an act of terrorism be considered; and
  • that the highest-risk radiation sources that could be used to make a dirty bomb be equipped with location tracking technology and requiring less dangerous technologies to be used where possible.

Rep. Markey and Senator Clinton have a long history of working on nuclear security issues. They jointly introduced the Dirty Bomb Prevention Act, and worked to include some of its provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Those provisions were a first step toward securing dirty bomb materials. In addition Rep. Markey added provisions to require the distribution of potassium iodide to the 2002 Bioterrorism Bill, and his provisions to increase protections at civilian nuclear facilities were also included in the 2005 Energy Policy Act. H.R.6816 builds on those provisions to more fully ensure the safety and security of nuclear materials and facilities.


"The security of our nuclear materials and facilities must not be left to chance -it must remain one of the nation's top priorities. We must never forget that the same nuclear power plants and the fuel that generate electricity to power our homes can also be a devastatingly powerful weapon in the hands of those who wish to do us harm," added Rep. Markey.


Full text of H.R. 6816 is available HERE.

A summary of H.R. 6816 is available HERE


August 4, 2008

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer, 202.225.2836