Major Security Breach at Palisades Nuclear Plant
Critics Call for U.S. Congressional Investigations
TAKOMA PARK, MD —A story appearing in the June edition of Esquire magazine that reveals a major security lapse at the Palisades nuclear power plant in Covert, Michigan, confirms that reactor security around the country is grossly inadequate according to specialists in the field.
Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and its allies today called on the U.S. Congress to investigate the security breach at Palisades. The Esquire story, entitled "Mercenary," details how the head of Palisades security — William E. Clark — had largely fabricated his background, experience and security credentials presenting himself as an expert on armed deterrence. Clark has since resigned his position.
"Mercenary" reveals that officials at the Palisades nuclear power plant failed to detect false assertions in Clark's resume that claimed he had high level security clearance from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Clark also passed a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)-regulated background check. He was hired by the plant's previous owner, Consumers Energy Company, and operator, Nuclear Management Company, but was kept on by the new owner and operator, Entergy, since it acquired Palisades one month ago. The article can be found at http://www.esquire.com/features/mercenary0607
"What's disturbing is not only that Palisades hired an individual who claimed to be an experienced assassin but that apparently no one verified his claim to have DOD clearance," said Kevin Kamps, nuclear waste specialist at NIRS. "This has serious implications for security at all 103 reactors across the country. It begs the question as to what would have happened if Mohammed Atta had decided to fake a resume rather than fly a plane, and earned a top-level security job at one of our nuclear power plants."
The article describes how Clark convinced NRC officials, as well as Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents, to support and even join his "Viper team," a supposedly "elite strike force" he set up at Palisades. According to Esquire, FBI agents and NRC officials attended a "Viper team" presentation by Clark hosted at DHS headquarters in Washington, D.C. The federal officials reportedly considered establishing Clark's "Viper teams" at nuclear power plants across the U.S.
"If what Esquire says about Clark is true, I surely hope Entergy and Consumers have formally notified the NRC, FBI, and DHS of the revelations by now," said Terry Lodge, an attorney based in Toledo, OH who represents citizens in interventions against Palisades. "Apparently a journalist can do a much better background check than Entergy and Consumers security officials. Entergy has also had security problems at the Indian Point reactors near New York City. The NRC must reconsider whether Entergy can guarantee the safe operation of Palisades, and 100% protection of the high-level radioactive waste still stored at Big Rock Point in northern Michigan," Lodge said.
"Despite the NRC claim that the 9/11 attacks prompted a "top to bottom" security review, it apparently did not detect Clark's deceptions or act upon his apparent erratic behavior as described in the article," Kamps added.
"Palisades' reactor and waste storage facilities hold potentially catastrophic amounts of radioactivity, at continual risk of release into the environment due to accident or attack," said Kamps. "This incident clearly shows that private companies and government agencies who are supposed to protect public health, safety, security, and the environment are incompetent at doing so."
NIRS has called on Congress to investigate the failures at NRC, FBI, DHS and the nuclear utilities involved at Palisades and to explore whether similar problems exist with security at other nuclear power plants across the country. It will also re-apply to NRC for hearings on its security-related contentions at Palisades and Big Rock, which had previously been rejected, based on the new information revealed by Esquire.
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