NRC may allow more powerful guns to guard spent fuel

File photo. Casks like this storing spent nuclear fuel at the Limerick nuclear plant may soon be guarded with more powerful guns.

 

LIMERICK — Machine guns may be coming to a nuclear plant near you.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has proposed a rule that would allow security guards to wield machine guns and “enhanced weapons” to guard spent fuel rods being stored at nuclear power plants.

The cost of the weapons upgrade, training and background checks envisioned in the NRC rule could cost the industry between $26.5 million and $34.7 million, according to NRC estimates.

The new rule, if made final, could be used by Exelon Nuclear’s Limerick Generating Station to upgrade weaponry if needed, according to NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.

Any upgrades, and subsequent costs, would be voluntary but in making industry costs estimates “NRC staff assumed that all licensees and certificate holds who fall within the proposed designated classes of facilities would take advantage of making us of enhanced weapons protection,” according to the announced of the proposed rule in the Jan. 10 edition of the Federal Register.

“We can’t provide specific details on the types of weapons our security officers carry or the extent of Exelon’s background investigations (for safeguard reasons),” Dana Melia, communications manager for the nuclear plant, wrote in an e-mail response to a Mercury inquiry.

“But Limerick already receives the highest level of security and protection as mandated by the Nuclear Regulation Commission,” Melia wrote.

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