Critics claim security lax at state’s nuclear power plants

The Associated Press
Monday October 29, 2001

SAN ONOFRE – Security has been boosted at the San Onofre nuclear power plant, but critics claim that government officials have not added extra protections put in place at other nuclear facilities after the terrorist attacks. 

Southern California Edison has added more private, armed security guards at the Southern California plant and the California Highway Patrol and Coast Guard have increased patrols. 

Though the plant is at its highest stage of alert, government officials have not taken added measures being taken at nuclear plants in the northeastern United States and in Central California. 

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts called out the National guard to protect nuclear power plants in their states. Gov. Gray Davis has not made a similar move at San Onofre or at the Diablo Canyon plant that is located on the state’s Central Coast. 

The Coast Guard is keeping boats from coming within a mile of Diablo Canyon, but vessels are not being restricted at San Onofre. Vessels can come right to shore at San Onofre and beachgoers can still walk on the strip of sand between the facility and San Onofre State Beach. 

Edison officials claim their increased security is adequate. 

Industry officials say a concrete- and steel-reinforced “hardened target” such as a nuclear power plant likely would not become at target for terrorists 

“The plant was never designed for the impact from a commercial airplane,” said Ray Golden, Edison’s spokesman for San Onofre, which is owned and operated by the private utility. “That does not mean we wouldn’t withstand it.” 

Officials said the plant was designed to withstand truck bombs set off on the nearby San Diego freeway or the attempt by a small group of terrorists to enter the plant. 

Steven Dolley, research director of the Washington D.C.-based Nuclear Control Institute, wants the government to install anti-aircraft weapons at nuclear power plants, including San Onofre. 

“No one can predict these attacks,” Dolley said. “That’s become apparent. If they can’t predict them, we need to seriously consider the deployment of anti-aircraft forces.” 

Dolley’s nonprofit group also has called on Gov. Davis to deploy the National Guard at the state’s two nuclear power plants. 

Deploying the National Guard would be a huge waste of money, since thousands of Marines are already posted at nearby Camp Pendleton, said Rep. Darrell E. Issa, R-Vista, whose district includes San Onofre. 

Though the Marines are not involved in plant security, they would be available if called, said Lt. Mamie Ward of Camp Pendleton.