Power plants will be prevented from forcing their security personnel to work excessive hours under a new order issued today by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "The new fatigue order is clearly a step in the right direction. Guards have been exhausted since September 11th under grueling work schedules," said Peter Stockton, senior investigator at Project On Government Oversight (POGO).
The order responds to revelations that security officers were working 60 to 72 hour weeks after September 11th terrorist attacks, leaving the officers exhausted and unable to remain alert on the job. The New York Times first reported on the problem of overworked guards. POGO discovered the problem in the process of the investigation for its report Nuclear Power Plant Security: Voices from Inside the Fences.
Other nuclear power plant security improvements were announced by the NRC today but are not available to the public - changes to the Design Basis Threat, that is the assumptions about the number of attackers and their weaponry, and changes to training for security officers.
POGO believes serious problems still need to be addressed concerning the Design Basis Threat. According to the NRC's release: "The Commission believes that the DBT represents the largest reasonable threat against which a regulated private guard force should be expected to defend under existing law." According to POGO's Peter Stockton, "The NRC seems to have this backwards. NRC appears to be tailoring its requirements to meet the existing capabilities of the plants' private security forces. Instead, NRC should be determining the realistic threat then sizing the forces to meet that threat."