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Aggregating Energy Since 2006

Who Guards Nuke Plants?

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has decided against changing the specs for new nuke plants.

The question is basically who is responsible for deflecting terrorist attacks on the plants from the air. Obviously, terrorists attacking the plants with airplanes is a serious concern for everyone involved. As of now, the responsibility for preventing such an attack apparently goes to the Department of Homeland Security.

My impression of modern reactor design is that it has passive protection measures. From listening to Science Friday, I had the impression that if "things go bad," the reactor's design would cause it to stop the nuclear reaction without requiring much intervention.

So I wonder how much damage a 737 landing on the plant would do. Would it merely release some radioactive material into the atmosphere (merely?) or spread it via the resulting explosion?

Is there a threat beyond the spread of the reactor fuel? Such a threat is obviously scary, but I wonder about the likelihood. Do nukes have radar currently? I would hope that Homeland Security has a mechanism to alert nuke plants if a plane is acting erratically and approaches a plant. How much warning time does a plant need to secure its material against such an attack?

This is important because some firms will soon build new nuclear facilities:

Mr. Peterson said the industry wanted the regulations to be issued soon, because companies had expressed interest in building 30 new reactors. The actual number built is likely to be much smaller, experts say, but there is a widespread expectation of new orders, probably in 2007.