September 5, 2006 - MARKEY: NUCLEAR POWER PLANT SECURITY JEOPARDIZED BY WACKENHUT’S LAX SECURITY AND BUSH ADMINISTRATION’S MINIMAL OVERSIGHT

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Homeland Security and Energy and Commerce Committees, today sent a letter to Dale Klein, Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), raising concerns about a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) revealing numerous security issues at the South Texas Project nuclear power plant near Houston, Texas.  The UCS report highlights problems raised by whistleblowers at the nuclear power plant, which uses Wackenhut, a private security firm, to provide day-to-day security at the plant but also uses them to carry out mock security exercises (force-on-force exercises) to test the facility’s ability to thwart a terrorist attack.  Rep. Markey has been a longtime critic of the NRC’s oversight of nuclear power plants and of Wackenhut’s lax security measures.  He urged the NRC to explain how, almost five years after September 11, private security firms are still being allowed to test themselves on plant security.  He also questioned other concerns raised by whistleblowers at the Texas plant.

Rep. Markey stated, “When it comes to making the nuclear industry accountable for securing the nation’s 103 nuclear power plants, the Bush Administration is falling down on the job by allowing them to operate in a pre-9-11 world.  From not securing weapons in reactors to carrying out sub-standard security exercises to not inspecting vehicles that have access to sensitive areas of the plant, Wackenhut and the Bush Administration are jeopardizing every community that surrounds a nuclear power plant. (The UCS  report can be found at: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/nuclear_safety/south-texas-project-co...).

“We know that Al Qaeda puts nuclear power plants at the top of their list of terrorist targets, but the NRC has chosen to ignore the warnings and allow private security firms to dictate the rules, test themselves, and supply faulty information and equipment to its security forces.  The whistleblowers at the South Texas Project nuclear power plant should be applauded not punished, for their tremendous work to warn Americans of the serious security shortcomings at this plant and UCS should be commended for their efforts to expose problems at this plant at others around the country,” Markey concluded.

Below is Rep. Markey’s letter to Chairman Klein:

September 5, 200

The Honorable Dale E. Klein
Chairman
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
11555 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD, 20852

Dear Chairman Klein:

I am writing regarding serious problems reported involving the Wackenhut security guard force at the South Texas Project nuclear power plant, which is owned and operated by the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company, a holding company owned by NRG Energy, CPS Energy and Austin Energy, and located about 90 miles southwest of Houston, near Bay City.  A report (see Attachment A) entitled “Concerns About Inadequate Security at South Texas Project” to be released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), as well as documents obtained by my office, indicate that numerous security concerns were raised by the security personnel at the facility. Instead of addressing these concerns, Wackenhut Corporation instead allegedly retaliated against these individuals. I believe the UCS report provides yet another example of problems associated with the use of Wackenhut security guards at nuclear reactors, and also reinforces the concern that the Commission’s decision to allow the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI, the nuclear industry’s lobbying group) to hire Wackenhut to train and manage the mock terrorist team in force-on-force exercises instead of maintaining its own adversary force was unwise.

The UCS report, which drew from extensive documentation provided to UCS by personnel at the plant, reports that:

·         Vehicles have been allowed to enter the protected areas of the reactor unsearched.
·         Most of the radios issued to security guards for purposes of communicating with one another are inoperable.
·         During a 2005 force-on-force exercise at the South Texas Project which was observed by both the NRC and the FBI, the Wackenhut mock intruders were reportedly told to “walk out there and get killed to make C-Team look good in front of our visitors.” Despite these instructions, “a mock intruder managed to get to the door of the fuel handling building poised to enter and simulate damage to the highly radioactive spent fuel. But the mock intruder was directed not to try.”
·          The additional security posts installed at the facility flooded when it rained, and are not well-maintained. Security personnel reportedly have to unplug power cords to avoid being electrocuted.
·         The surveillance cameras used for perimeter security are frequently rendered unusable in foggy, humid conditions, but Wackenhut has failed to take action to solve the problem.
·         The weapons at the facility are stored in an insecure area that can be accessed by cleaners and other uncleared maintenance personnel.
·         Wackenhut personnel at the South Texas Project repeatedly retaliate against security personnel. Retaliation has included ordering other security personnel to fraudulently fill out reports that would justify disciplinary action, unfairly singling out personnel who report security concerns for disciplinary actions, disclosing the identity of those filing confidential reports to their supervisors.

As you know, I have long been concerned that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) force-on-force (FOF) security exercise program is inadequate.  In 1998, I first wrote the Commission regarding its plans to eliminate the Operational Safeguards Response Evaluation (OSRE) program, a program in which the NRC evaluated the FOF tests at nuclear reactors.  The FOF tests conducted under the OSRE program determined that about 50% of nuclear power plants failed to thwart the mock terrorist attacks.  After the plans to eliminate the OSRE program became public, the Commission decided not to eliminate the program after all, but then quickly decided it would alter the program to allow the nuclear industry to design, implement, and evaluate the FOF tests.  The new program was named the “Self-Assessment Program” (SAP), and later re-named the “Safeguards Performance Assurance” (SPA) program. I have long believed that allowing the nuclear industry to test and grade itself posed an unacceptable conflict of interest, and entered into an extensive correspondence with the Commission regarding my concerns. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I continued to express my concerns that the SPA program was ill-advised, and authored legislation that was acted on favorably by the House of Representatives to ensure that the NRC, not the nuclear industry, evaluate the FOF tests.

However, on June 9, 2004, the NEI announced that it had selected Wackenhut Corporation to train and manage the mock terrorist teams that would be used in FOF tests on nuclear reactors (see http://www.nei.org/doc.asp?docid=1203).  Since Wackenhut also provides security services for 30 of the nation’s nuclear power plants, including at those plants where Wackenhut will conduct FOF tests, using Wackenhut to test security poses a blatant conflict of interests. More fundamentally, I believe that any NEI involvement in assessing security at nuclear reactors is ill-advised, poses a conflict of interests, and should be prohibited by the Commission.  Given NEI’s self-described role as an advocate and promoter of nuclear power and the fact that NEI is the principal trade association representing the nuclear utilities industry, it is totally inappropriate for NEI to be involved in assessing the adequacy of security of its member companies.  The only way to be certain that FOF exercises provide an objective assessment of the adequacy of security at nuclear reactors is to have the mock terrorist team paid for by the Commission, and have it consist of individuals trained in terrorist tactics that do not have pre-existing ties to any company that currently provides security services to nuclear reactors. 

Sadly, the situation at the South Texas Project is hardly unique:
    - Earlier this week, after numerous reports about Wackenhut’s poor security performance and excessive use of overtime, Entergy decided to cancel its contract with Wackenhut at the Pilgrim Nuclear Station in Plymouth, MA. According to press reports, an Entergy spokesperson evidently agreed that removing Wackenhut would also remove the conflict-of-interests charge it has been subjected to as a result of NEI’s use of Wackenhut as the mock terrorist team in force-on-force exercises.
    - In March, 2006, Wackenhut lost its contract to guard the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after extensive reports of security breaches, including unguarded entrances and malfunctioning security equipment.
    - In the spring of 2005, reports indicated that Wackenhut forces at the Seabrook nuclear power plant in NH were forced to work excessive amounts of overtime to compensate for an inoperable perimeter intrusion detection system
    - Numerous problems related to Wackenhut forces at the Department of Energy’s Y-12 nuclear site have been reported in the past few years, including cheating on force-on-force drills, forcing guards to work excessive amounts of overtime, and inadequate training.     - In 2003, Entergy terminated its contract with Wackenhut at the Indian Point nuclear power plant near New York City due to numerous security and personnel concerns.
 
Because of the serious nature of both the specific problems reported at the South Texas Project and the long-standing reports of Wackenhut’s deficiencies, I ask for your prompt responses to the following questions:
    1.) For each of the security problems detailed by the UCS report, please indicate a) what the NRC has done to investigate the substance of the allegation, b) what the NRC has done to compel the licensee of the reactor to implement corrective actions, c) what actions the licensee has taken to implement these corrective actions, and d) what actions NRC has undertaken to impose penalties on the licensee for any failures to follow NRC regulations or Orders, and e) if no such actions have been taken, why not?
    2.) In the Commission’s October 2004 response to my August letter on the conflict-of-interests associated with allowing NEI to use Wackenhut as the mock terrorist team for FOF exercises, then-Chairman Diaz indicated that the NRC had required NEI to implement measures to assure ‘adequate independence’ between the mock terrorist team and other reactor Wackenhut security guards. However, a May 1, 2006 report by the NRC Inspector General (IG) stated that many of these commitments were unverifiable.  Specifically, the report found that it “was also not possible to ensure with certainty that sensitive FOF exercise planning information or scenario details were not exchanged between the staffs of the Wackenhut Vice President of Special Operations, responsible for the mock adversary force, and the President of Wackenhut Nuclear Services, responsible for providing security. Furthermore, the mitigative steps implemented by NEI and Wackenhut were voluntary commitments, and NRC had no regulatory authority to enforce them.”  In light of the allegations involving staged FOF exercises at the South Texas Project and the statement by the Entergy spokesperson regarding the conflict-of-issue question at the Pilgrim Nuclear station, do you still believe these measures are adequate?
    3.) Since the inception of the NEI-Wackenhut adversary team, has any individual raised allegations or concerns regarding the adequacy of these measures for any particular FOF exercise (for example, have there been allegations that advance information regarding FOF exercises was inappropriately shared, or that any of the measures intended to prevent conflicts-of-interests had been violated)?   Please fully describe each such situation, as well as the steps the NRC took to investigate and/or remedy the problem.
a) How many FOF drills have been conducted using the NEI-funded Wackenhut group as the mock adversary force?
b) Of these FOF drills, how many resulted in member(s) of the mock adversary force gaining access to equipment or areas of the reactor that could, had the attack been real, resulted in a core melt, breach of the containment structure, or breach of the spent fuel storage facility?  How many of these occurred at reactors who also use Wackenhut security guard forces? c) Of these FOF drills, how many resulted in mock injuries or fatalities (and how many injuries or fatalities) of the protecting guard forces? How many of these occurred at reactors who also use Wackenhut security guard forces? d) For each FOF drill that used the NEI-funded Wackenhut adversary team, please indicate the date of the FOF drill, the reactor at which it took place, and which, if any, of the outcomes described in parts b) and c) occurred.
    5.) In light of the widespread reports of Wackenhut’s security deficiencies, inadequate training and whistleblower retaliation, why does the Commission continue to have any confidence that either the Wackenhut guardforces at specific reactors or the NEI-Wackenhut mock terrorist team can perform as needed for their vital security mission?
    6.) The Secretary of Homeland Security has complained that privacy laws in the European Union are hampering his ability to protect against terrorism.  Has the foreign ownership of Wackenhut raised issues regarding the ability of the NRC to maintain adequate oversight regarding the protection of nuclear powerplants in the United States against foreign or domestic terrorist threats?
Thank you very much for your prompt attention to this matter.  Please provide your response no later than Friday September 29, 2006. 

Sincerely,

 
For more on Rep. Markey’s nuclear power plant security work, please go to http://markey.house.gov.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Septeber 5, 2006

CONTACT: Israel Klein
202.225.2836