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NRC Seeks Broader Participation in Atomic Site Protection Drills

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has updated rules for local crisis preparations around atomic energy facilities, seeking participation by state and jurisdictional law enforcement personnel in drills for potential attacks on such sites, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday (see GSN, May 1).

Personnel charged with protecting the sites have drilled for the last 21 years against possible strikes, and the practice maneuvers grew in quantity following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2011.

The revised NRC policy, which entered into force in the last month of 2011, drops a mandate for community emergency response personnel to drill for the dispersal of radioactive material. Under the altered regulations, U.S. officials would evaluate the capabilities of state and jurisdictional emergency personnel to handle the release of such substances and a second danger at the same time. Coordination among plant guards would be subject to assessment during drills.

Still, it was unclear to local policy-makers why the rules do not require jurisdictional authorities to take part in preparations to fight off attackers. Such participation could be needed during an actual defensive effort, according to federal crisis specialists.

In such a scenario, state and jurisdictional law enforcement personnel would probably have responsibilities other than countering individuals engaged in the offensive, U.S. officials said.

Separately, the updated NRC rules advise authorities to seek the immediate removal of fewer members of the local population in the event of a crisis (Jeff Donn, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, May 16).

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