“Shortly after the horrors of 9/11, a curious package landed on Dave Lochbaum’s desk,” ocregister.com reports. “It was flat but heavy. Inside the bubble pack was a battered steel plate, blasted with dents and holes from semiautomatic weapons fire. Each pockmark and perforation was carefully labeled – by hand, in permanent ink – with the type of ammunition used to produce it. Security forces at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and nuclear plants nationwide had increased their firepower to take on a more formidable terrorist threat. The steel plate, sent by a San Onofre security manager, graphically illustrated . .
what Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer, considered a potentially devastating, increased risk: More powerful ammunition meant to protect nuclear reactors was capable of piercing control panels and critical piping.”
Sigh. Let’s think about this . . .
First, which way are the nuclear power plant security staff shooting? Second, if they’re shooting “high-powered ammunition” — presumably (but never stated in the article) 5.56 AR-15s — what are the people they are shooting at firing? I’m thinking . . . wait for it . . . AR-15s. With high-powered ammo!
Actually, if we’re talking about attacking a nuclear power plant, let’s face it, we’re talking bombs. (Getting control of a functioning nuclear power plant with armed attackers would be next to impossible.) Best way to do the job — and this isn’t a secret — is a truck, make that two, loaded with explosives. And what’s the best rifle to shoot the driver(s) of said vehicles? I’m thinking an AR-15.
Strike that. I reckon an AK-74 loaded with 5.45 improved Warsaw penetrator rounds would be ideal. Yes, a “high-powered” round fully capable of penetrating pipes and [plastic] panels. If we’re talking in-house rifles, an AR-15 with frangible ammo might be a sensible choice.
Hang on, compared to what? For some strange reason, an entire article based on “dangerous” calibers never mentions calibers. But it sure does half present some half*ssed arguments.
Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the introduction of “bigger and badder weapons” at nuclear plants recalls the unanticipated consequences of ocean-liner safety improvements after the Titanic disaster in 1912.
In 1915, the Great Lakes passenger steamer SS Eastland, which had been prone to listing, was retrofitted with a complete set of lifeboats and crank systems to lower them. The steamer was not designed to hold the extra weight. When passengers congregated on the top deck while the Eastland was tied to a dock in the Chicago River, it rolled over, killing 844 people.
“Are the bigger and badder weaponry less Titanic or more Eastland?” Lochbaum asked.
What the hell does that have to do with anything? Here’s an idea! Why not have the guards on the perimeter of nuclear power plants armed with those swanky new 50 BMG bullpup rifles to shoot approaching bomb trucks? There’s your high-powered weaponry.
Thankfully, the article includes quotes from nuclear power plant security officials who say pretty much what I’ve said above: we got this. Training, minimized weapons handling, regular qualifications — all the precautions you’d expect for staff carrying guns loaded with “high powered” ammunition.
The article doesn’t point out that the people making the claims against unspecified “high-powered ammunition” have an axe to grind. They do.
“Over the decades of dealing with the NRC, the pattern has never changed,” he said. “I’ve never seen them ahead of the risk rather than behind it. The NRC sees its job as keeping the burden low on the nuclear industry. This is an exceedingly dangerous mismatch between a captured regulatory agency and an adversary that is nimble, lethal and has absolutely no compunction.”
Anti-nuclear activist Roger Johnson, a retired psychology professor in San Clemente, said he believes cost is a major consideration in plant security programs.
The NRC’s approach has been to guard against a few armed intruders, like a bank holdup, he said. “They will say with a straight face that they are secure. What they mean is that they have 100 percent of the security that is required – which is very little.”
Well, it can always be better. Or worse, if the Union of Concerned Scientists has its way. Oh, and the plant named? It’s been decommissioned. Home to radioactive material, but still . . .