Nuclear, O&M

Duke nuclear power plants under heavy guard

By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Nov. 2, 2001 — In a show of force, more than 700 guards armed with automatic weapons are patrolling Duke Energy Corp.’s seven US nuclear electric generation facilities, Harvey Padewar, president of Duke Energy Services, said Friday.

The nuclear safety “specialists” are not “minimum wage rent-a-cops,” Padewar told a Houston conference. He said the Charlotte, NC, energy holding company has done a “tremendous” job of both operating and responding to any perceived threat against its nuclear facilities.

Nuclear power plant operators nationwide stepped up security measures after the federal government Monday issued another warning of a possible terrorist attack without mentioning specific potential targets. Governors of seven states have authorized the National Guard to help patrol nuclear plants, including Florida, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, and Massachusetts.

Making a pitch for a central federal repository for nuclear plant waste, Padewar said he considered waste stored on site at power plants “more vulnerable” than the plants themselves. “We need to get that [waste] underground so terrorists can’t get to it,” he said.

Nuclear waste continues to be stored on site because Congress has yet to create a federal disposal site. Padewar said approval of a disposal site has been a “political football” because nobody, including Nevada which the US government favors as the disposal site, wants one in their backyard.

With respect to safety at other energy facilities, Padewar said the truth is it would be next to impossible to protect “every mile” of pipeline or electric transmission line against a terrorist attack. Moreover, he said, it would be difficult to cause a major disruption because bypasses are available in the event of an attack on pipelines and transmission lines. Major substations can be protected, Padewar said.

In an uncertain world, Padewar also called for decreasing US reliance on foreign energy suppliers and for boosting US natural gas production and nuclear power generation. Falling US demand for gas and power, especially in the industrial sector, is “certainly an issue,” Padewar said.

But he said the company is still able to capitalize on strong “volatility” in the market. Padewar would not say if Duke is considering cutting back on its aggressive generation expansion program in response to a weakening economy. “We are always evaluating it,” he said.