Weapons to be deployed at Canadian nuclear plants

Martin Mittelstaedt
Globe and Mail
October 20, 2001

Operators of Canada’s seven nuclear power plants have been ordered to increase security at their facilities after a review of procedures prompted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Weapons will now be available to defend the plants. It is the first time they have been deployed at civilian nuclear power facilities in Canada, although have been required in the United States for some time. A spokesman for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission would not elaborate on how the weapons would be used.

Linda Keen, president of the commission, said there was no evidence of a threat to the plants but it was clear that security had to be tightened because of a higher perceived risk.

Late Thursday, Ms. Keen ordered operators to station armed-response units at the plants, but details are not being made public. The operators must also boost security checks on people and vehicles entering the plants, tighten access to sensitive areas, upgrade security checks on workers and provide better equipment to security guards.

“I want these measures put into place over a short time period. Some of them are immediate,” she told a small group of reporters in her Ottawa office.

The statement by the country’s nuclear regulatory agency follows a meeting yesterday with the top executives of the country’s atomic plants operators.

Five of the seven plants are in Ontario. Two are run by Bruce Power, a partnership between British Energy PLC and Cameco Corp., and three by Ontario Power Generation Inc. Hydro-Québec and New Brunswick Power have one nuclear station each.

The new security measures also apply to the Chalk River nuclear laboratory, northwest of Ottawa, operated by the federal Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.

The main danger at nuclear power plants is that an air attack, a ground assault, or deliberate sabotage could cause a radiation release. The Chalk River site uses enriched uranium, the material needed to make nuclear weapons.

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