Security crackdown ordered at nuclear sites

Peter Calamai
Toronto Star
October 20, 2001

 

Impenetrable barriers designed to thwart terrorist vehicles

 

The federal nuclear watchdog has ordered impenetrable security barriers erected at crucial nuclear installations in four provinces, including three nuclear power stations, a nuclear waste storage facility and a research reactor in Ontario.

These new barriers to stop “forced vehicle penetration” are one of five tougher anti-terrorist measures imposed under emergency authority by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the federal regulatory agency.

The other measures are armed guards with improved equipment, searches of all people and vehicles entering the installations, better identity checks on personnel on site and tougher advance security screening of employees and contractors.

Commission president Linda Keen declined yesterday to provide more details of the anti-terrorist measures or say when they had to be in place.

“Very shortly,” she told The Star in an interview.

Keen said the tougher measures were justified by the “increased threat” to nuclear facilities in Canada after Sept. 11, while also saying there have been no attacks or even threats of attacks.

The commission president outlined the security crackdown in person yesterday in Ottawa to top electrical utility executives from Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick — all three operating nuclear power stations — and to senior officials from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL).

Federal crown corporation AECL runs nuclear research labs in Manitoba and Chalk River, Ont., and also operates nuclear waste facilities at Douglas Point, Ont., and Quebec’s Gentilly nuclear station.

A spokesperson for Ontario Power Generation (OPG) said some of the measures were already in place here as the result of an “enhanced security” directive from the federal regulator issued Sept. 11.

“We will be ensuring that OPG meets all of the new regulatory requests,” said utility spokesperson John Earl.

Armed Durham Region police are now stationed at entrances to OPG’s nuclear power stations at Pickering and Darlington. Vehicles entering both sites are also being searched. Officials of Bruce Power, the private company now running the former Ontario Hydro nuclear power station on Lake Huron, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Nuclear commission head Keen also said that “active consideration” was being given to closing off the airspace around key nuclear sites. But the federal watchdog wouldn’t request a no-fly order from federal transport officials unless it could be enforced, a commission spokesperson said.

Pickering Mayor Wayne Arthurs said this week he was pleased to learn that three CF-18 fighter planes are now stationed at Trenton airbase and could respond within 10 or 15 minutes to an air threat against Pickering or Darlington.

Placing impenetrable security barriers around crucial areas of nuclear facilities will probably take longer than the other new security measures. Nuclear commission officials say steel fences are not good enough and that concrete walls and trenches — or a combination of these — may be needed.

The tough anti-terrorist measures were formally approved Thursday at an unannounced and closed-door meeting of the seven-member board that oversees the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission board.

For the first time, the board used an emergency power to issue orders without public discussion “to protect the environment or the health and safety of persons or to maintain national security.”

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