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Project on Government Oversight




Leaked Documents: Late Night Cramming for Security Test at Indian Point

April 30, 2003 


New documents obtained by Project On Government Oversight reveal the extraordinary artificialities of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's tests to determine whether nuclear power plants can defend against terrorist attacks. In an April 21 letter to Indian Point Security Officers, Entergy explains how the facility will prepare for an upcoming force-on-force test: "That will require you to work longer hours during the next ten weeks to sharpen your skills while still maintaining adequate protection for the site" (Click here to view the letter). In an April 16 memo to the security force, Entergy outlines 15 mandatory drills to prepare for the test (Click here to view the memo).

"It is time for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do away with late night cramming for security tests at nuclear power plants. The plants should be prepared to repel a terrorist attack at any given time, rather than just when the NRC announces that they will be tested," said Danielle Brian, Executive Director at POGO.

Indian Point security officers in touch with POGO say that they are already working 60 to 72 hour weeks and that complying with the new Entergy request will lead to 14-hour shifts. Yesterday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a new order that will prevent nuclear utilities from overworking guards. According to news reports, the new order will go into effect in 18 months.

POGO's report, "Nuclear Power Plant Security: Voices from Inside the Fences" was very critical of the NRC's policy of giving up to ten months warning before testing the security of the facility. POGO's report recommended the following:

"Give no more than two to three weeks notice of upcoming OSRE [Operational Safeguards Response Evaluations] force-on-force tests, rather than six to 10 months. At the moment of notification, utilities should be required to freeze the guard force to be tested in place, rather than calling in their most capable guards."

The report also outlines the problem of advance notice on the tests:

"To actually test the security forces, the NRC conducts mock terrorist attack tests which are run by the Operational Safeguards Response Evaluation (OSRE) program. Prior to 9/11, these mock attack tests occurred only once every eight years. A few days before the one-year anniversary of 9/11, the NRC issued a press release announcing that it is planning to begin conducting these tests every three years.

In the months leading up to a mock attack test, the utilities hire security-training consultants and additional guards to improve their security posture and chances of success. Even a nuclear industry representative acknowledged that utilities spend 'millions of dollars' getting ready for the tests

The guards said that for months prior to a test, they repeatedly practice for the two or three scenarios on which they will be tested, often with the help of the consultants. The problem, according to the guards, is that they train only on the particular attacks that will be used in the test rather than on many different types of attacks. Once the tests are completed, the security consultants are let go and the guard force reduced until the next test."

Even with this advance notice and preparation time, nuclear power plants failed force-on-force tests 46% of the time according to testimony by David Orrik, a security expert at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who has overseen such tests.


Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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