US lawmaker wants nuclear plants protected
November 5, 2001

WASHINGTON (Reuters)- A Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives called last week for the Bush administration to post National Guard units at all operating or decommissioned nuclear reactors to protect them against attack.

Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, a longtime critic of the nuclear power industry, also urged the stockpiling of potassium iodide to give to residents who live near such facilities in the event of an accident or attack that results in the release of radioactive material.

Markey also told a news conference the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should drop its opposition to developing new security regulations at the nation’s nuclear plants in wake of the deadly Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

“The time for action is now,” said Markey, who won committee approval earlier this week for his proposal requiring the NRC to write new rules to step up protection of nuclear power plants against a sophisticated, coordinated attack.

The proposal was attached by the House Energy and Commerce Committee to a reauthorization of the Price-Anderson Act, which allocates federal funds to cover nuclear operators in the event of a mishap.

Neither the full House nor the Senate has taken up the measure. The House could take it up in the next few weeks.

Governors of several states have ordered National Guard units to duty to protect nuclear power plants in light of heightened government warnings against an imminent attack.

Markey said the plants were vulnerable to attack, and the nuclear industry had not adopted adequate safeguards.

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