August 27, 2007

Armed Guard Found Asleep at Nuke Plant


Filed at 5:35 p.m. ET

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) -- A federal inspector found an armed guard asleep at a gate inside the Indian Point nuclear power plants but officials said Monday there was no security breach.

The inspector spent two minutes trying to rouse the unnamed guard Sunday afternoon before the guard ''stood up and opened his eyes,'' said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The five-year veteran was alone on the second of three security rings around the two plants in Buchanan, about 35 miles north of New York City, Sheehan said.

He said other security measures at the gate remained in operation during the guard's nap and tapes showed there was no breach, ''but that doesn't make it any less serious.''

Jim Steets, spokesman for Indian Point owner Entergy Nuclear, said the other measures included a palm-print reader and a badge scanner. The two would have had to match before the gate would open.

There was another security ring that would have had to be passed to reach critical areas, including the reactor and the spent-fuel pool, Sheehan said.

The guard was found sleeping during a ''backshift'' inspection -- focused on night and weekend operations.

Sheehan said Entergy ''needs to get to the bottom of this and make sure the staff knows this is unacceptable.''

Steets said the guard, an Entergy employee, was placed on administrative leave pending tests for drugs and alcohol and a review. He said the guard carried a sidearm.

He said security guards are rotated from post to post during their 12-hour shifts -- ''in part to keep them attentive'' -- and the guard had worked two previous posts on Sunday. His shift began at 6 a.m.

Indian Point, on the Hudson River 35 miles north of midtown Manhattan, has attracted widespread criticism, especially since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The problems included siren failures and leaks of radioactive water.

Officials and activists say its safety and security are questionable. Federal regulators have turned away attempts to have it shut down, however.

Source: The New York Times