Nuclear nightmare

Nuclear nightmare

By Ron Tenin

By Ron Tenin

Nuclear nightmare

How confident are you that our government has been forthcoming about the magnitude of the terrorist threat facing our country?

There are currently 103 nuclear reactors operating in the United States, including double reactors in Byron just 17 miles southwest of Rockford—Illinois’ second-largest city. Sabotage of nuclear power plants may be the greatest domestic vulnerability in the United States today. Illinois has more nuclear power plants than any other state.

Nuclear “watchdogs” are convinced that nuclear power plants are the “soft underbelly” of national security and represent attractive targets to the enemies of the United States. Recently, 6 million tablets of potassium iodide have been purchased by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for distribution to states with nuclear power plants. Potassium iodide blocks thyroid absorption of cancer-causing radioactive iodine that’s released from nuclear power plants.

The attacks on Sept. 11th, 2001 have provided a crucial wake-up call to our nation to confront the very real threat of nuclear terrorism. It would be wise to assume, especially after the well-coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon that bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network have done their homework and are quite capable of attacking nuclear power plants for maximum effect. Training camps in Afghanistan included instruction and drills on how to attack nuclear power plants.

Three days after the attacks of Sept. 11th, the Nuclear Control Institute (NCI) wrote to the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), “Due to the extraordinary and unprecedented threat that now exists inside the United States, the NCI proposes:

[Everyone should demand:]

1) Immediate use of National Guard troops at all nuclear reactors; (2) prompt deployment of advanced anti-aircraft weapons to defeat suicidal attacks from the air; (3) thorough re-vetting of all plant employees and contractors to protect against sabotage from insiders; (4) the restriction of air space around power plants.”

In response, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said:

“We’re evaluating current requirements and statutory authority relating to the acts or threats of terrorism, including but not limited to those that you present in your letter.”

Hello, President Bush. Can you instruct your Nuclear Regulatory Commission to move decisively? Can you stick around this August and run the country instead of going on holiday? We really could have used some leadership last August, and an FBI director, too.

Nuclear power plants give one’s enemy nuclear capabilities to use against us. In effect, a conventional attack by a truck bomb or plane crash (flying missile) can turn a nuclear reactor into a radiological weapon.

Nearly half the nuclear power plants tested in the NRC-supervised security exercises fail to repel a mock terrorist attack. Dr. Edwin Lyman, a physicist and NCI’s scientific director, calculated a direct, high-speed hit by a large commercial passenger jet “would have a high likelihood of penetrating a containment building that houses a power reactor. Following such an assault, the possibility of an unmitigated loss of coolant accident and significant release of radiation to the environment is a very real one. Such a release could result in tens of thousands of cancer deaths downwind of the plant.

The vulnerability of our nuclear plants is obvious. The American people have a right to know the dangers and demand prompt action. We must protect power plants from terrorist attacks, or unthinkable consequences could follow.

Neither the NRC nor the White House has called for military protection of nuclear power plants. In the absence of clear guidance from Washington, the response of the states has been indecisive and confused. In Illinois, our governor’s been preoccupied with figuring out how to stay out of jail. Budget problems in many states have contributed to the weak response—not a real confidence builder for the war against terror.

The French government has deployed military protection and anti-aircraft missiles for nuclear power plants in their country. Why has that not been done here? We are the country that was attacked Sept. 11th. Americans must demand decisive action from our government. Upgrade the security of nuclear plants now, to levels sufficient to protect against an attack of the scale and sophistication of Sept. 11th, or be prepared to face legislation mandating the shutdown of these plants.

We are dangerously past the time for the public and elected officials to wake up to this vulnerability. We must move quickly to prevent attacks on nuclear power plants. We must act now, or else live with the knowledge that we did not adequately protect our country, our children or our way of life. Demand responsive government or demand the end to nuclear power plants. Time is not on our side. Thanks to www.nclorg & as sources of information.

Ron Tenin is the owner of Rockford Furniture.