Nuclear power plants are among the most sensitive facilities in use today. They are a key part of the power grid, making them essential to protect against vandalism and theft. In addition, they are an ideal target for terrorism, both for motives involving disruption of the power grid and for the potential to create deadly fallout. Spies from hostile nations may also want to enter the area to gain intelligence about the use of nuclear fuels, for both energy and ordinance.
Because there is so much at stake, security is incredibly important at nuclear power plants. Yet like any other longstanding institution, a degree of complacency could be present in some of these installations that might provide opportunities for would-be thieves, vandals, spies, and terrorists to make access.
As a rule, policies and procedures are fairly consistent. Anyone with access has appropriate credentials, and those who control points of entry are vigilant about verifying their validity. In addition, these procedures are easy to oversee, making it likely that any laxity in performance would be identified and corrected.
It’s more on the physical side that security can be improved, and it isn’t so much a function of neglect as it as advancements in technology. Today’s security threats are more sophisticated than ever, so the old techniques for guarding against them are inadequate, no matter how effective they were at the time the facility was built.
The options for fortifying sensitive locations like nuclear power plants are more complex and versatile than ever before, making security easier to create and maintain. Here are a few examples.
Forget about chain link and razor wire. Fence security has come a long way since those simple techniques were considered state of the art. New prefabricated sections of the industrial concrete fence now make it easy for fences to be installed in more difficult locations by requiring only placement with a crane or other implement, instead of calling for room to build forms, set up concrete pumps, and perform all the steps that made wire fences a more appealing method.
These durable, extra-secure panels are far more effective than their predecessors. They are not susceptible to damage by wildlife, corrosion, trees, or vehicles, providing uninterrupted service.
No matter how good a fence is, it still must feature gates to allow access to authorized people and vehicles. Because the gates must be movable, they cannot be constructed of heavy concrete, so they are usually constructed of metal and wire. These softer points are easier for vehicles to ram through, making it necessary to develop a better option.
There are two key things that must be present for a vehicle to force its way through a gate. First, the gate must be soft enough for the vehicle to penetrate it. Second, there must be a clear path to permit the necessary buildup of speed. Construction of meandering entry access roads, enhanced by the use of concrete barriers to keep vehicles on those paths, makes it more difficult for vehicles to simply ram their way into a facility.
It seems the whole world is now under video surveillance, and digital technology is making the process much more practical. Old systems on VHS generated grainy footage that was only available for a brief time before being overwritten. If a security breach was discovered too late, there was no way to review footage.
Today’s video systems are drastically better. The resolution and sharpness of the images and video are much higher, increasing the likelihood that the cameras will provide useful information to identify perpetrators. The massive size of video storage systems permits longer retention of footage. There is even night vision technology available to provide clear views regardless of light and weather.
These are just a few of the options out there for improving security at nuclear power plants. They can provide critical protection for these important facilities.