Nuclear Energy Power Plants

QUESTION: Are Nuclear Energy Power Plants Secure?


The technology to make highly concentrated uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons is completely separate from nuclear power plant technology. It is impossible to make a nuclear weapon with the low-enriched uranium contained in a commercial nuclear reactor. The reprocessing of used nuclear fuel can also be designed to prevent the isolation of plutonium, and therefore minimizes the risk of nuclear proliferation. Again, contrary to what many think, it is impossible to make a nuclear weapon from the low-enriched uranium used in a commercial nuclear plant.

Remarkably, nuclear energy plants actually reduce the threat of nuclear weapons by using warhead material as fuel and rendering it useless for weaponry. To date, the U.S.-Russia “Megatons to Megawatts” program has consumed over 15,300 nuclear warheads. In fact, the U.S. is currently deriving half of its commercial nuclear fuel from decommissioned Russian warheads. Yes, that’s pretty incredible when you think about it – the United States is using old Russian nukes to generate about 10% of its total electricity.

Nuclear Energy Power Plants – Highly Protected Facilities
U.S. nuclear plants are among the most highly protected facilities in the nation’s industrial infrastructure, similar to high-security military installations. Nuclear power plants are protected 24/7 by professional security outfits armed with all the latest weapons and gear to repel ground and airborne terrorist attacks. Actually, it’s because of these multiple layers of security that nuclear power plants are way down the list of government concern -- U.S. nuclear plants are far less likely to be targets of terrorism than the thousands of more vulnerable targets across the nation.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, top-level engineering analysis of U.S. nuclear power plants shows that the radioactive material is safe. The current plants can withstand a jetliner impact without releasing any radiation at all. That’s right, even if there’s a “successful” attack on a U.S. nuclear power plant, nobody in the surrounding areas will be sickened or killed by radiation.

It’s also important to note that there has never been a successful cyber attack at any U.S. nuclear plant. Unlike industries for which two-way data flow is critical -- like banking -- nuclear power plants do not require incoming data flow. None of a plant’s safety and control systems are connected to the Internet. Nuclear plants are also able to safely shut down in a variety of ways without computer controls, including a total loss of offsite power.

Content created in association with the Nuclear Energy Policy Group at The Heritage Foundation, and ColdWater Media, Inc. Copyright 2011 – All Rights Reserved in the Original.

Facts derived from the Nuclear Energy Institute,, including specifically, “Myths and Facts about Nuclear Energy” (August 2010).

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