The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Caitlin MacNeal,COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER,(202) 347-1122,

POGO Urges Commissioners to Listen to Staff Experts This Time, Not Industry Lobbyists, and Strengthen the DBT


POGO has learned that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is in the
process of making a decision that could improve the security of nuclear
power plants. This comes at a time when President-elect Obama has put
the expansion of nuclear power on the front burner of his agenda.

Commissioners are in the process of voting whether to implement a more
robust Design Basis Threat (DBT), which was recommended in a classified
memo written by the NRC staff. The DBT describes the level of threat
the protective force at nuclear power plants are required to defend
against, such as the number of outside attackers and inside
conspirators, and the kinds of weapons and size of truck bombs that
would be available to terrorists.

"While POGO has not seen the
staff memo, our sources tell us that it is a step in the right
direction," says Peter Stockton, POGO Senior Investigator.

For years, POGO has been critical of
how the NRC has defined its DBT. NRC Commissioners watered down the
original staff-proposed security standards based on the misguided
belief that they should only ask of the nuclear industry what can be
expected of a private security force. The NRC Commissioners had removed
commonly-used weapons from the DBT, including rocket propelled grenades
(RPGs), and 50-caliber sniper rifles with armor-piercing rounds. Also,
the NRC has been requiring nuclear power plants to protect against only
a handful of terrorists because the agency did not believe a terrorist
cell would target a nuclear power plant.

The GAO concluded
that the result of the NRC's changes to the DBT was a completely
unrealistic DBT that reflects not what intelligence estimates dictate
but, instead, what industry is willing to pay for. Unlike the DOE, the
NRC had denied the reasonableness of basing the DBT on the postulated
threat. POGO, however, has sources who are intimately familiar with the
creation of the postulated threat and who believe it is reasonable.

has had numerous meetings with the Commissioners and staff regarding
problems with its DBT and has found that they have no ability to defend
this current irresponsible DBT and that it needs to be strengthened.

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is an independent nonprofit that investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct in order to achieve a more effective, accountable, open and honest federal government.