October 20, 2006
State Board Confirms Shearon Harris Security Violations
Justice agency asserts authority over security licensing at all NC nuclear plants
DURHAM, NC – A State licensing board cited a security contractor for violations involving the testing of guards at the Harris Nuclear Plant, and moved to reassert state jurisdiction over training procedures at the three nuclear plants located in North Carolina. In a unanimous vote Wednesday afternoon, the Grievance Committee of the Private Protection Services Board, part of the NC Justice Dept., said Securitas, Inc. had
recertified armed guards without the required training and without authorized instructors.
The State investigation stemmed from complaints by Harris guards late last year of widespread security flaws, including the charge that Securitas forced guards to cheat on recertification exams. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has confirmed many of the guards’ complaints – including security equipment left inoperable for long periods. The NRC’s final report is expected soon. The charges were filed on the guards’ behalf by public interest groups NC WARN and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The State investigator interviewed nearly the entire Harris security force during his investigation. The report released Wednesday cited multiple findings that Securitas – which handles plant security for owner Progress Energy – was deficient in various qualification requirements for state-licensed security guards. In eight security categories, Harris guards received training of well under half the hours required under state law.
The agency noted that a 1992 agreement with nuclear plant owners Duke Power and CP&L (now Progress Energy) allowed the security guards at the plants to meet State standards by following NRC security requirements. At the hearing, the PPS Board was adamant that the agreement must be rescinded. One PPS Board member noted that “90% of this problem belongs to the NRC.”
Securitas lawyer Robert Adden told the board that training at Harris is ongoing, implying that annual refresher courses are not needed, and that instructors act as “substitute teachers” in training, even if not certified. Those remarks drew a sharp rebuke from board member David Grimes, who insisted state rules do not allow such practices: “It is wrong … that’s the only way to cut it,” he growled.
Both Adden and PPSB investigator Tim Pressley noted that NRC regulations are more general than required under NC law, but it was unclear whether NRC standards are higher than the State’s. The Securitas lawyer said Harris guards receive more overall testing than that required, but was unable to substantiate the claim.
John Runkle, attorney for NC WARN, stressed to the Board that, with the federal NRC under siege for not enforcing safety and security regulations at US nuclear plants, the State PPS board should now demand compliance with its rules within 30 days, and follow up with audits each 90 days.
Plant guards and critics have long complained that industry pressure has kept NRC from requiring realistic, post 9/11 security levels although nuclear plants have been identified as known and vulnerable targets for terrorists. The Harris problems were the plant’s third set of security gaps revealed since the late 1990s.
“Security failures, fire safety violations, sudden reactor shutdowns, emergency cooling failures, the largest building full of high level nuclear waste … Progress Energy really needs to start backing its PR statements that safety is its priority,” said NC WARN Executive Director Jim Warren today.