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Project on Government Oversight

POGO Letter to Sandra Gavutis of the C-10 Research and Education Foundation, Inc.

Related Content: Nuclear Power, Nuclear Security
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March 29, 2002


Ms. Sandra Gavutis
C-10 Research and Education Foundation, Inc.
44 Merrimac Street
Newburyport, MA 01950

Via Facsimile: (978) 462-3959

Dear Ms. Gavutis,

For over 20 years the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has worked to investigate, expose, and remedy systemic abuses of power, mismanagement, and subservience by the federal government to powerful special interests. POGO is a politically-independent, nonprofit watchdog that strives to promote a government that is accountable to the citizenry.

Toward this goal, over a year ago POGO began working with a number of whistleblowers on the lack of security at the Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons facilities. In October 2001, we released our report, U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Security At Risk. Since that time we have briefed Members of Congress, the Pentagon, DOE, the National Security Council, and the Office of Homeland Defense in an attempt to improve security at these facilities. Because of our work in this area, we are beginning to be contacted by Members of Congress and others who are concerned with security at commercial nuclear power plants.

We have been in communication with John Middlemiss and James Howard, former security guards at Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, who informed us of numerous security concerns which they witnessed as guards. Both Middlemiss and Howard were hired after September 11th, when one would expect that such security problems would have been resolved. After repeatedly reporting their concerns to their supervisors, both guards resigned in protest, but have continued their attempts to resolve the security problems. We have independently confirmed these allegations with knowledgeable people at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Headquarters who agreed that Seabrook is among those plants with the biggest security inadequacies. Among the guards’ concerns are:

  • Inadequate Training – Training included only two days of weapons training and four days of tactical training. In those four days, the tactical training covered tactical mind set, survival response, tactical communication, basic individual tactics, response force deployment tactics, team tactics, close quarters techniques, tactical weapons techniques, and an introduction to tactical team movement. On the last day of tactical training, the guards were to demonstrate their new skills in an exercise. Middlemiss said of the exercise, “Both teams suffered multiple mistakes basically because of our inability to apply what we had learned.”
  • Exercise Failures – Drills inside the plant were not run until after the new guards were put on shift. At least five of the six drills that were run on Middlemiss’ shift during the first week resulted in unacceptable risk to public health and safety. These drills were not confined to new guards, but included veteran guards as well. In the three months that Middlemiss worked at the plant, these were the only drills that were run on his shift.
  • Complacency of Guard Force – With such a record of failures, the morale at Seabrook power plant is such that the guards themselves don’t believe that they can stop an attack. Several officers have admitted to Middlemiss that in the event of an attack, they would use their weapons to protect themselves and escape the site. Middlemiss admits, “I realized that I too had developed that same level of complacency . . . I too was willing to run if there was an attack.”

POGO’s sources at the NRC also added their own concerns including:

  • Inadequate testing – Testing now occurs only once every three years. The NRC is currently considering removing independence from the tests and making them self-assessments;
  • Unrealistic testing – As Middlemiss explains, “you are given a whistle and you use your flashlight. The whistle represents the gunshot and the flashlight the bullet.”; and
  • Outgunned guards – One-third of the power plants around the country, including Seabrook, lack automatic or even semiautomatic weapons, despite recent full-page color ads, paid for by the nuclear industry, being run in Washington, DC newspapers, displaying heavily armed guards at nuclear power plants.

Since Middlemiss’ and Howard’s resignations, there have been marginal improvements in the area of worker satisfaction, yet current guards continue to report that it appears security concerns have not been addressed. The official position of the NRC has been ineffective and non-responsive. The NRC should be listening to credible voices like these and immediately upgrade security at these facilities.

We hope you find this information useful. We are regularly being contacted by insiders who are concerned about the lack of security at both nuclear weapons and nuclear power facilities. We are constantly updating our website: pogoarchive.pub30.convio.net.

Sincerely,

Danielle Brian
Executive Director

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