Flirting With Nuclear Disaster

"In early 2009 a team of terrorists managed to enter a nuclear-power plant in the American South armed with machine guns and grenade launchers. After breaking through chain-link and barbed-wire gates, they battled with the plant’s guards. Those terrorists who weren’t killed were able to disable a critical component of the plant’s operating hardware. A meltdown of the reactor core looked imminent, as did the release of radioactive material from waste-storage pools located on-site. The surrounding area faced catastrophic fallout.

Everything up to that point actually happened—sort of. In reality, the attackers were a group of highly trained government operatives—including security consultants and military members on leave—posing as terrorists. Every three years, such teams “attack” each of the country’s 104 nuclear-power plants to find weak spots in security. The raids are carefully choreographed: plant managers are given two months’ notice to prepare the guards, and the intruders follow a prearranged script to evade them. Still, eight times out of roughly 100 attempts over the past five years, the mock terror teams have successfully broken through those defenses."

Daniel Stone reports for Newsweek January 4, 2011.

Thursday, January 6, 2011