TVA To Eliminate Handguns For Security Officers, Raising Concerns About Safety

Tennessee Valley Authority security officers will no longer be able to carry handguns, a change in policy that has prompted one employee to speak out about the danger he thinks it poses.

Paul Tackett told WRCB Channel 3 in Chattanooga that nuclear power plants are considered high value targets to terrorists.

“Radiological release, that’s what they’re after. Terrorists are after to kill as many as they can in the quickest way,” he said.

Tackett, who has worked as a senior nuclear security officer at TVA’s Watts Bar Nuclear Plant for seven years, is currently required to carry a handgun and pepper stray. He recalled an incident four years ago in which someone fired at an officer at the East Tennessee plant. The officer wasn’t hurt, but the incident shows that anything can happen at any time and that officers need to be able to protect themselves, Tackett said.

“Everyone I talk to over there says the same thing, I mean, they’re just like me, saying what are we going to do if something happens?” Tackett said.

Tackett said he won’t be able to carry a handgun after August 15. The TVA told WRCB the changes will be complete by the end of the year.

TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler released a statement to the news channel that said:

The safety and security of our nuclear plants, personnel and the public are TVA’s top priority. We continually work with the nuclear industry to evaluate processes and procedures to determine the value they add to the safe, secure operations of the nation’s nuclear plants.  
Because other protective measures are in place to ensure the security of nuclear sites, the nuclear industry is in the process of eliminating handguns that are not required for the protective strategy of nuclear power plants. These changes have been successfully implemented by other utilities. We will only take actions that improve our ability to protect our nuclear plants after following the regulatory review process.  
Security protocols prevent us from providing any additional details on our plant’s protective strategy.

The Daily Caller reports that uranium from a nuclear plant could be used to make a low-tech nuclear explosive called a “dirty bomb.” Though it would be much weaker than an actual nuclear device, it could contaminate a local area with high levels of radiation and cause mass panic. ISIS has expressed an interest in stealing this type of radioactive material.

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said in October that material to build a “dirty bomb” was almost smuggled out of a nuclear power plant several years ago, according to The Daily Caller. The news outlet also reported that ISIS-linked terrorists targeted a nuclear reactor in Belgium, a plan uncovered by police last year in raiding the Brussels apartment of an alleged terrorist.

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