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Casey Urges Quick Action on Nuclear Plant Security

Casey Urges Quick Action on Nuclear Plant Security

Also calls for new safeguards against foreign travel and re-screening of employees who return to work after a long absence

WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has urged the fast implementation of changes recommended to improve security at nuclear power plants.  Senator Casey sent a letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko after the NRC Office of Inspector General completed an audit that recommended a number of changes.  Senator Casey also called for additional steps to improve security beyond what was outlined in the audit.

“I was pleased to see that IG has produced several recommendations for security improvements at nuclear facilities and I encourage you to implement these findings immediately,” wrote Senator Casey.  “With nuclear facilities spread across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, these security vulnerabilities pose a real danger to my constituents as well as the citizens of neighboring states.”  

The NRC Inspector General audit was prompted after Sharif Mobley, a former worker at nuclear power plants in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland including Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station and Limerick Generating Station was arrested in Yemen on terrorism charges.
 
The following measures were recommended in the audit; the recommendations would have to be acted upon within 30 days:
·         improving employee training so that workers can better identify potential terrorists;
·         allowing the NRC direct access to background check databases, as opposed to relying on information provided by third parties;
·         increasing the frequency with which employees are re-screened;

Senator Casey is also calling for additional measures to require nuclear plant employees to report any overseas travel and to ensure a loophole is closed that does not require workers who have been off the job to be rescreened.  Senator Casey also requested a full briefing on the findings of the audit and on the implementation of the recommendations.
 
Senator Casey is the co-founder of the Senate Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism Caucus and has made combating the threat of nuclear terrorism a top priority.  Senator Casey’s Nuclear Trafficking Prevention Act would make selling nuclear material a crime against humanity, make it easier to prosecute traffickers and strengthen penalties for those convicted.
 
The full text of Senator Casey’s letter to Chairman Jaczko is below:
 
Mr. Gregory B. Jaczko
Chairman
U.S.  Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, D.C. 20555
 
Dear Mr. Jaczko:
 
I am writing with respect to the NRC Inspector General’s recent audit on procedures for background checks on new and transfer employees and for improved monitoring of current employees at all U.S. nuclear plants.  I was pleased to see that IG has produced several recommendations for security improvements at nuclear facilities and I encourage you to implement these findings immediately.  If the NRC determines that it lacks authority or resources to implement these recommendations, I stand ready to work with you on providing such authority or resources via legislative action.  Based on the impact of this audit on my constituents in Pennsylvania, I would like to request a briefing from you as soon as possible. 
 
Mr. Sharif Mobley reportedly worked at the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in York County and the Limerick Generating Station in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.   As you know, Mr. Mobley is currently being detained in Yemen on terrorism charges.  His lawyers have disclosed that he had been in contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who has actively promoted terrorist attacks against U.S. targets.  With nuclear facilities spread across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, these security vulnerabilities pose a real danger to my constituents as well as the citizens of neighboring states. 

Specifically, the NRC’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) recommended the following measures in the audit: ·         improving employee training so that workers can better identify potential terrorists;
·         allowing the NRC direct access to background check databases, as opposed to relying on information provided by third parties;
·         increasing the frequency with which employees are re-screened;

I am encouraged that these important measures have been identified and I look forward to monitoring the implementation process which you are required to put in place within 30 days.  I expect that the use of background check databases will be consistent with existing law.  I also hope that you will enact measures to require employees to declare their travel abroad. 

While these are positive developments, I am especially concerned about the re-screening process of these workers.  Under the current rules, no new background investigation is required when a worker has been off the job for extended periods.  This provides ample opportunity to travel and develop contacts with extremist elements.  The audit report recommends increasing the frequency of ‘re-screening’.  I would appreciate a response from you on the frequency and the nature of this recommended re-screening process.  I hope that we can work together to close this apparent loophole in the rules.   

Based on this immediate security concern to my constituents, I look forward to your prompt response to this letter.  
 
Sincerely,  Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator
 

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