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Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) security officers at nuclear power plants will soon not be allowed to carry handguns.

The measure will be in place throughout the system by the end of the year.

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The implementation of other protective measures securing nuclear sites has rendered handguns obsolete when it comes to protecting the power plants, said TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler.

Senior Nuclear Security Officer Paul Tackett expressed concern about the changes, recalling an officer who was shot at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in eastern Tennessee several years ago.

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Fiedler said the action was recommended after following the regulatory review process.

This move comes on the heels of an incident last month at the TVA’s Browns Ferry nuclear plant, when a contract worker was able to get a small-caliber handgun past security.

The worker, who was not identified, brought a derringer handgun into the plant’s protected area, the TVA said. The individual did not have the weapon on him when it was discovered, said TVA spokesman Jim Hopson.

The discovery caused TVA to declare an “unusual event” — the least severe of four emergency categories — and report the incident to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“Obviously, this is something we take very seriously because the individual was able to get the weapon past nuclear security,” Hopson said, noting the plant has security features similar to an airport, including metal detectors.

TVA reported that it has taken “compensatory measures” to bolster security screenings across its nuclear fleet. Hopson said the contract worker was escorted from the plant and his nuclear security clearance revoked.

TVA Police are conducting an investigation to determine the next steps in the legal process related to potential violations of federal statutes regarding firearms in nuclear facilities, according to Hopson.

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