Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued directives to power plant operators to enhance protection against vehicle bombs. The Commission also has issued directives to power plant operators to enhance protection against insider threats.
The committee does not have enough information to judge whether the measures at power plants are in fact sufficient to defend against either a DBT or a beyond-DBT attack on spent fuel storage. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission declined to provide detailed briefings to the committee on surveillance, security procedures, and security training at commercial nuclear power plants. Consequently, the committee was unable to evaluate their effectiveness, A recent General Accounting Office report (GAO, 2003) was critical of some of these procedures, but the committee has no basis for judging whether these criticisms were justified. Nevertheless, the committee judges that surveillance and security procedures at commercial nuclear power plants are just as important as physical barriers in preventing successful terrorist attacks and mitigating their consequences.
2.2.3 Attacks Having Both Air and Ground Components
Hybrid attacks that combine aspects of both air and ground attacks also could be mounted by terrorists. These could deliver attacking forces directly to a spent fuel storage facility, bypassing the security perimeters and security personnel deployed to protect against a ground attack. The committee considered various scenarios for such attacks. The committee judges that some scenarios are feasible. Details are provided in the classified report.
2.2.4 Terrorist Theft of Spent Fuel for Use in a Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD)
An RDD, or so-called dirty bomb, is a device that disperses radioactive material using chemical explosives or other means (NRC. 2002) RDDs do not involve flssion-induced explosions of the kind associated with nuclear weapons. While RDD attacks can be carried out with any source of radioactivity, this discussion is confined to scenarios that involve the theft of spent fuel for such use.11 A crude RDD device could be fabricated simply by loading stolen spent fuel onto a truck carrying high explosives. The truck could be driven to another location and detonated. The dispersal of radioactivity from such an attack would be unlikely to cause many immediate deaths, but there could be fatalities from the chemical explosion as well as considerable cleanup costs and adverse psychological effects.
It would be difficult for terrorists to steal a large quantity of spent fuel (e.g., a single spent fuel assembly) for use in an RDD for three reasons. First, spent fuel is highly radioactive and therefore requires heavy shielding to handle. Second, the use of heavy equipment would be required to remove spent fuel assemblies from a pool or dry cask. Third, controls are in place at plants to deter and detect such thefts. Additional details on these controls are provided in the classified report.
Theft and removal of an assembly or individual fuel rods during an assault on the plant might be easier, because the guard force would likely be preoccupied defending the plant. However, the amount of material that could be removed would be small, and getting it