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Nuclear Power Plant Lobbyists Shape Post-9/11 Security Tests

August 3, 2004 

 

In a troubling post-9/11 move, the federal government is allowing the nuclear industry's leading lobby to develop the teams of mock terrorist attackers who evaluate security at nuclear power plants, according to a letter released today by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). "This is more than a case of the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse. It is not an apparent conflict of interest -- but a blatant conflict of interest," said POGO's letter from Executive Director, Danielle Brian, to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The lobby, called the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), in turn hired the company with the biggest financial stake in finding no problems at the plants, to provide the specialized teams. That company is Wackenhut Corporation which is the nation's largest nuclear s ecurity plant provider, with contracts to protect roughly half of the plants.

Wackenhut has a strong incentive to discourage the mock terrorists it hires from mounting a realistic security test. Earlier this year, the Department of Energy's Inspector General found that Wackenhut managers had been cheating on such force-on-force exercises for two decades at the Y-12 nuclear facility in Oak Ridge, TN. According to NEI: "The Wackenhut contract employees selected for the exercises must meet NRC requirements. The NRC has the authority to determine and ensure that the force-on-force exercises meet the level of attack against which the industry must defend" (see http://www.nei.org/doc.asp?docid=1203).

According to POGO's conversations with NRC officials, the agency claims it cannot afford to pay for the security testing so has turned to the nuclear industry organization NEI to fund the tests. NEI has aggressively lobbied against legislation aimed at improving security at the power plants and ran a series of misleading advertisements claiming the plants were well-protected post-9/11.

Wackenhut is a subsidiary of a Danish-British conglomerate. As Brian notes, the Congress has barred foreign firms from operating security at U.S. airports.


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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