There are security failings at PSEG Nuclear’s Salem/Hope Creek reactor site along the Delaware River, and regulators are warning there could be possible sanctions and additional citations against the company.
The action at PSEG’s complex in New Jersey, southeast of Augustine Beach, was one of several security-related shortcomings reported at nuclear plants around the country in recent months.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) officials declined to release details of inspection findings leading to the security citation at Salem/Hope Creek, relayed to PSEG in mid-December but made public only recently. A document cleared for public release described the problems only as “greater than very low safety significance.”
“We don’t provide the details of the security findings,” said NRC spokeswoman Diane Screnci.
One nuclear industry expert said the NRC could have focused on any of a number of problems, ranging from incomplete background checks for workers to improperly secured computer systems, flawed access control barriers or unsecured defensive weapons.
“The NRC doesn’t want to tell those who may wish us harm what a plant’s vulnerability is,” said David Lochbaum, nuclear safety program director for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “I can understand that, but telling the world that this plant had a problem three weeks ago but it now has been fixed doesn’t aid our enemies that much.”
A letter posted in the NRC’s public library said PSEG “promptly implemented compensatory measures for the deficiency” and was back in compliance with NRC rules before the federal inspection ended. The problems are nevertheless “being considered for escalated enforcement action.”
Other plants got security-related violations in recent months, based on new or reinterpreted regulations, said PSEG spokesman Joe Delmar in a statement.
“At no time was there any security threat to Salem and Hope Creek,” PSEG said in its statement. It did not specify the issue.
Constellation Energy Nuclear Group’s twin Calvert Cliffs reactors on Maryland’s western shore earned a citation after a similar inspection earlier this year, as was Exelon’s Limerick complex northwest of Philadelphia.
Although the NRC has not detailed problems for any site, the agency last year began revising some requirements for information system cyber security and other essential systems, in a continuation of homeland security initiatives launched after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.